To make it easier for me and for a few others who may chose to read the story, I'm compiling all my blog posts from a crisis to one place. I still can't say exactly all the details of that cold spring day, but I blogged through it as best as I could. I had little warning at all,yet actually in the crisis I had more warning than anyone else. For some reason I don't understand, God chose to whisper to me twelve hours before the crisis and warn me. Because of that whisper, I had already called in prayer support before the events went down. By the time trouble began happening, there were around fifty people on their knees before God pleading for protection for three men I loved.
Yet in the beginning of the crisis, I was silent on the blog. I had no time, and I could not think. I also had to be cautious about how I write. I chose during the crisis not to say what was happening, but to blog my reactions to what was happening. Later, when the crisis was over, I was able to go back and tell a portion of the story of what happened. Without details, without context, but the events as they occurred. So as you read this page, the first blogs will be unclear, and later, details will come.
This blog page covers the trauma and then moves into the recovery stage. We didn't recover well. There are a few reasons for that. A person was responsible for setting up debrief, but didn't. There was a conflict right at the beginning with a team leader who did not understand that people needed time to heal. He had no boundaries between work and family, and phoned nonstop - even at midnight to talk. This started a conflict which soured the recovery time and bled over to the team debrief time. That then turned into an all-out fight. It was tried to be handled "in house" with no leadership with any training in debriefing or trauma situations. Added to that were the stress of unhealed wounds and fears of members of the team from previous traumas. So, as odd as this sounds, the recovery was much more difficult than the trauma.
I questioned why that was so later on. I came up with a few answers. First of all, it was because the initial trauma was expected. It was something we have lived with the possibility of all our lives. We had time to discuss and mentally prepare ourselves for this event. It will happen.... that was more our feeling before. This will one day happen. So we were ready. However, the trauma of the recovery was so unexpected. I had this unspoken expectation that if anything horrible were to happen to us, our missionary community would support us. They would be there. They, of all people, would understand, and they would help us. What happened to us was so unexpected that I had no reference for it - no way to cope with it. The missionary community failed, and they failed in a major way. We felt abandoned, accused, and uncared for. That trauma was more difficult for me to recover from than the initial trauma. Out of respect for everyone else involved, I want to make clear that I am not saying that the trauma of the recovery was more difficult. It was just more difficult for me to recover from as it was so terribly unexpected. Then the whole recovery process was complicated by the fact that ours was not the only crisis our field hit that year. It was only the first of many worse crisis, and I felt guilt for even having needs in light of what was happening in the wider world.
This then is the story of that cold spring day when it began....
Friday, March 19, 2010
The Things We Pray For
So I prayed. Maybe it is just a prayer of sheer laziness. But see, I fully know that God is capable of unclogging toilets. I know He also loves me with delight. So I pray that God will just declog it if I flush it two or three times. And I expect Him to answer. Confident that my Father knows I don't want to go down to the dark basement to find the plunger and do the job, I rest in His toilet unclogging ability.
I'm facing a much bigger crisis today. A 8.2 on the Richter scale of crises. The day has seen me alternatively pacing, sitting, staring off into space, crying, waiting. I cry out to God to catch me, to help me trust, to hold me through this. I'm scared to pray. I pray furiously. But I am afraid to ask, to demand what I want - the balance between wanting what I want and being willing to follow where God leads... not sure where that balance is today, but not perturbed by not finding it. I know God is not up there judging my reaction to today's events ready to give me a score sheet of faith. He's here, holding me through it all - even when I can't sense Him.
And then I pray confidently over my toilet!
I shook my head while I watched the water swirl and eventually go down - no plunger needed. Shook it laughing at my faith which today is strong enough, not to move mountains, but to unclog toilets. Smiled at that answer, and turned my face up to God in this crisis - please answer here, too!
So I wait. And trust. And even when I can't trust right now, that's ok - it doesn't change God. He still unclogs toilets and does the impossible.
And He is with me wherever He asks me to walk.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
Still remain praying - we have a few issues still that are urgent, but we are down to a 6.3 on the Richter scale instead of an 8.2!
Thank-you all. We'll tell you the story when we are all together one day at the end!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Please continue to pray for my children as their life has been a little out of normal routine the last days, and they need to feel "normal" again.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
When Silence is Deafening
But I sit here tonight, and I feel muzzled. Unable to talk. We've been through something. It was rough. Now we are getting help, and because of events surrounding the help getting - people's actions, people's reaction, time factors - I am not able to tell my story. I feel muzzled. Alone.
For a person who's living is done by words, this is not a place I like to be. But there is no one to listen to my heart right now. No one to say "Sit down and tell me what happened and how you saw it." I have someone here who went through something similar to my story, but there are some giant differences. And I feel so very alone right now.
I sat last night in the dark after all people had gone to bed and told God my story. From beginning to end. From the very first inkling to the happy ending so quickly ruined by one person's insensitivity. I sat and poured out my heart alone in a dark room, just talking casually to the God who holds my heart.
And that was good.
But the silence was deafening. And the empty chairs mocked me. No one who cares enough, no one who has time enough to hear my heart right now. And tears fell again. Bucket load of tears that want to spill and can't yet.
I want a best friend. Someone who wants me as much as I want them. Someone who goes to me first with their news and to whom I can go knowing that they are there to hear mine.
Then, selfishly, despite all the realities of my life, I want one where I am.
Because I am walking alone in a desert surrounded by people, but no one yet able to listen to my heart. Not even sure that anyone knows I have more story than has been told. And plunged into conflict with a person who has no idea of boundaries and is constantly overstepping common decency with no remorse. That saddens me - if there were acknowledgment of wrong, it would be a thing we could work together on, but there is none. I think this action, this conflict with this person is causing me as much stress as the rough thing we just went through. I'm sad. I'm angry too.
I don't have time to deal with those emotions yet. My heart is spilling a story that has not been told, and I want an ear. I want the ability to cry. I want to not have to defend how I feel. When we did have a chance to talk for a short while, I was strongly questioned on why I said I knew something.... umm....I don't know... Sometimes, I just quietly know something. Maybe God talks to me. Maybe He gives me a feeling... I don't know - don't ask me to defend it and explain it. If you do not know how God talks, then I can not tell you. Maybe you know how He talks to you, and I know how He talks to me. But in both incidents, it was clear that what I knew was going to happen did - so walk on and don't try to make me explain the world that is unseen.
But I am tired. Very tired. Sad. Trying to recover, but so longing to talk. I just want to talk, to tell the story from the beginning to the end. But I was not the ones who went through the rough things, so they are to talk. I know they need to. But I feel like I sit invisible, and invisible tears run down my invisible cheeks and ache in my heart.
I need a friend.
Friday, April 2, 2010
How Did Jesus Do It?
The power of a mob. The ruler who says your life is in my hands. The enraged crowd at Jesus' claim that He is the Son of God. The end. Or so it seems.
But then I see something else. Disciples whose quiet world was rocked. Who should have been expecting it, but still could not believe it. Some perhaps huddled in fear. Some watching nearby. Some perhaps at a distance. Watching. Horrified. Shocked. Tummies that heaved at what happened. Eyes that stared blankly.
Then God asked me a question. "How did Jesus treat His disciples after He met them again?" The question is especially valid for me right now. Something happened in our life, and we are recovering. The recovery has been interesting. Different responses from different people. Some leave me hurt. Some comfort a little. Others leave me empty. At times I feel like shaking people and asking, "Can you just listen for a minute?! Can you just ask?!" But I am largely quiet about what was hardest for me, what haunts me. A little skittish by the responses I have received, and not yet ready to open my heart.
But then came the question, "How did Jesus deal with His disciples after His death?" Got to admit, it would rank high on the scale of traumatic events!
So I sat here and thought. He appeared to them. He spoke gently to them. He said see, feel, touch, feed me. Not one rebuke. Not one "hey, come on, shape up" type of comment. And then there was Thomas, who missed the first reunion. And Jesus took time for him, too. "Here, put your finger in the holes in my hand" See, feel, touch.
Then He walked with them on the road to Ermaus, quietly talking and explaining. He did not just barge in and take over, but walked with them quietly talking.
He cooked a meal for them, and called them to eat.
He talked to Peter one on one because He knew Peter needed it.
He took time to just be with them. He did not rush them into work. He did not rebuke them for not knowing. He did not tell them to hurry up there is a world waiting for you.
He was gentle to them.
So I smiled. Between an inane conversation with the people I walked this evening with about various ways to kill slugs, I smiled. Daring to relax. It is ok. People may not know right now how to help me, but Jesus dealt well with His disciples after trauma, and I can rest with Him. He's not pushing me, and it's ok if I need to see, feel, and touch to believe right now. If I need to quietly walk with more questions than answers. He'll walk with me.
There have been the few that have responded well to me. A few that have been a relief to me in the middle of it. People who despite all going on around me have been there believing in me. Those few are like a warm bowl of milk - both comforting and nourishing. I am not saying that there are not those few - they have shown up in one way or another, just not with me, and I miss them. But part of it that I am not yet able to talk. But I value these people highly.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
The Business of Getting Back to Normal
It is strange to be in the house alone. Quietness reigns. And I stand at my stove and have to think how to cook again. Where to start? My house had been taken over by others. Cupboards are a mess. Things bought and put in odd locations. I open the fridge and stare at leftovers that I have no idea where they came from. Thankful for the army of volunteers who ran my house, but now slightly overwhelmed at the confusion. My brain is too tired to figure it out, and I simply close the cupboard doors again. Maybe I'll get back to normal tomorrow.
We went for a walk this evening as a family. Ignored the phone when it rang. Tired of people. Tired of the hugs, the looks, the sympathy. Thankful for them. And tired of them. Wanting to just walk and nod at people we pass without having to stop and tell the story again. And yet again. It was nice to walk in the evening.
Now we face another night. I hope this night my brain will let me sleep. It still works in overdrive at night. Dreams of emergencies and emotions fill my head when I close my eyes, and I wake startled. My heart pounds and my hands sweat. I shake my head and tell myself it was only a dream, but the emotions linger. I close my eyes again, only to repeat the process. I reach for my husband and wrap my arms around him to reassure myself that he is here. He grunts and reaches for my arms and pull them tight. I know he is also not sleeping well.
I watch my kids. Wondering what is normal. Is it good that they have begun to fight and pick on each other again. Do I give thanks for this or do I scold them again... or both? I'm too tired to scold them, but I have to, so I pull out enough energy to do that. Angry at them for disturbing my thoughts which only run circles over and over the same themes. Thankful that they have stopped staring blankly into space and are busy jumping into puddles again. Scolding them for soaking their shoes. Where are their boots? I don't know. My brain can not pull up the memory of where I store spring rain gear.
I want to get back to normal. I am working on it. I just don't know where I left normal. I think I left it one night before that phone call.... and I can't find it again. I'm hoping I'll find it here behind one of these cupboard doors that open to a confusing array of things that I did not put there.
It's hard work getting back to normal. I'm beginning to wonder that when I do finally find my normal, it will be changed. I will be changed. Will we recognize each other?
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
My heart was thrown to the sharks today. Scolded that I did not do enough for others to set their minds at ease during the worst crisis I have lived through. Blamed for not reassuring others enough.
It wasn't enough that I was up for five nights day and night working on a solution. It wasn't enough that I reached out to comfort others whose load was not as heavy as mine. It wasn't enough that I went that long not knowing if our family would be the same, if we would ever be together again. It wasn't enough that we communicated that we were safe and we were taking a day off to recover together.
We did not reassure them enough that first day, and we were blamed for it. Bruised, bleeding, and still stunned, they threw me to the sharks. Open range to attack for what I did not do.
I'm still not sure there is a pulse left. I sit staring blankly off into space stunned. I really don't know if I have any feelings left. I don't know what is left of me. I don't know if there is a piece of my heart without jagged teeth marks on it. Today, I feel like it is a fatal injury. Tomorrow, I will get up and look at God and cry. Today, I don't have enough energy for tears.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
But we are breathing, and we are sticking together in it. These are good things.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Back to Work
Sad. That is what I thought later. It is sad. Our first days back at work at our office, and we were surrounded with criticism and attacks. My first day back at my secular job, and I was surrounded by care. Ok - there was one, there always is, who wondered why I took so much time off work. But she grumbles about everything.
My other co-workers came to see me, to say they cared, to check on me. When I phoned in last night to get my schedule, my one coworker was so nice. She asked how I was doing. She commented that I still did not sound quite normal, and firmly stated that if I woke up and did not feel like coming into work that I was to phone her and she would take my shift. Tomorrow or any time in the next weeks as we adjust to normal. I thanked her and said that we do hope to take some time off with the kids since they missed a promised holiday. She immediately said she would cover for me. All this after she has been covering for me for over two weeks. I smiled. Felt loved. Relaxed. So wonderful to be cared for. So wonderful for someone to ask how I am really doing and to listen. So wonderful to not be made to feel guilty for needing time to recover.
But sad. Why did this have to come from non-believers? Oh some of my coworkers might be believers, but most aren't. Yet they responded with care.
Perhaps because the events did not threaten them or touch them as personally. Who knows. But it made me sad. I wish our team family had responded with as much compassion as my secular coworkers.
Still, it was wonderful to make it through a shift. Sad to have missed the death of one I have cared for for five years. Sad to sit beside another as she is dying. But, dying is what I do.. well, not personally, but caring for the dying... so it is not something I shy away from. I know it comes, and my job is to comfort through the process. But there is always something sad about death, about the simple being there, sitting with, holding the hand as a person slips away. This one person is 104, and is spunky so there is some debate as to if she will go soon like the signs say or rally once again and surprise us all. My mind goes back to the things she has surprised us with before.... she is the one who threw chocolate milk all over me when I did not listen to her "no", she is the one who at 103 was walking better than the 80 year olds and grouching at them for being lazy. She is one spunky lady, and she is dying like she lived - with an ability to hang in that amazes us all. Tonight I said my good-byes. She may not be there tomorrow. But she has lived well, and if I go in tomorrow to see an empty bed, I will be able to say that we loved her well in her last years with us. Then I will prepare to meet the next one who we will love until she also breathes her last.
Oh, and my favorite patient was thrilled to see me today, and greeted me happily. Then he sighed and said, "You look delicious!" Time to giggle and ask for his teeth and try to ignore his many exclamations of how much he loves me. He's a nice man, just a bit too loving of all of us! But we let him, and don't fuss at him - he is sweet.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
How I Work
I'm a great person in crisis. I'm not the type of person who panics... even though at times waves of panic hit. My mind works like a wide angle lens in when there is some emergency. My vision field opens, I see more, I think slower and clearer, and yet quickly, and I act well. I delegate, organize, and act with clear determination. I learn new things. I'm brave, insistent, persistent. I'm the type of person you want beside you when things go wrong.
When I got that phone call a few weeks ago, and all this began, I immediately began to work. Part of me was standing absolutely shocked at what was going on and all that it could mean... but then I took a deep breath, and began to do what needed to be done. For four days and nights, I worked. Then things went briefly wrong again, and I worked for another night and day. I did a good job, but there were times in it that the absolute horror of what could happen would hit. But I could not stop to think about it... I took a deep breath, and kept going.
That is how I am. It is an ability God gave me.
But it makes recovery difficult. Here a few weeks later, I still am slightly stunned... wishing someone knew how to help me, wishing I could explain to people around me how I work. The very ability I have that enables me to perform well in a crisis also means that I will store all the emotions, feelings, and fears and process them later. So that when all others are rejoicing because it is over, I go back to the beginning to sort through everything - the shock, the fear, the nausea, the decisions, everything. And people push me to be happy... it is over, after all. Be happy now. But I haven't yet processed the fear and the pain, the awesomeness of those first quiet moments with God where I chose how I will respond to this, the blessing of the people around me, the crushing ache of those mornings, the stark pain reflected in my children's eyes... It is not that I am not happy. It is just that I need to do that still.
Unfortunately, right after this crisis came a conflict. The conflict pushed me back into the crisis mode - the watching, on guard, waiting to respond, cautious. Then came other attacks and criticisms... All these things have not made it easy for me to go back and process things.
I haven't felt safe enough.
So here we are a few weeks later, and people are going on and happy, and I am still in no man's land. Bewildered. Unsure when it is safe to talk, to think it through.
I think by talking... or writing. And when we were debriefed the first time, I was told what to say... told what to talk about... I do not work that way. It really frustrates me. Because I have things I want to say, and I can't if someone insists they know the questions to ask. And then because of the conflict right afterward, people decided we needed time to do nothing. Doing nothing is really tough when all you want to do is talk, but no one is listening. I wanted to talk... really wanted to talk... but there was none to listen.
When we got home, we had a second debriefing of sorts... it went awfully... I think someone forgot to include the direction that you are not to attack people for what they felt. I got attacked, and it hurt. It really hurt.
But even with the awful hurt, you know what? I still finally got to talk. Even if they jumped on me afterward - I still finally got to talk. I needed to talk. Forced silence is miserable for someone who stayed silent about how they felt during the whole event... I needed to talk.
So while it was tough, it was still better... better than silence.
And this week, help came from a good source. My husband. He finally listened - not to the whole story, but to the reason that I am struggling right now. Because I wasn't able to process all this during the event like most of the others in our team. I was busy then. I need time to process it now. He understood that when I told him. He's stepped in to give me that time. To not insist that I am happy when I am not there yet. I am happy. But I have to sort out the whole event, organize it, and file it. I have to be able to talk without being told how I am to talk and about what. I will get to the joy... but I need to walk through the pain first.
I just needed someone to listen to that.
Then there is one other person, a friend, who lets me say anything. I don't need to think about how I say it, but just talk. I can talk when I want and quit when I want. I like that ability.
And one other, who heard what happened and how I felt, and got angry! Ok. Now, some people will argue that we shouldn't get so angry... but right then, I needed someone to hear and understand how I felt. I was angry! I even had good reason to be angry. And I needed to be heard. How wonderful it was that someone heard that and was angry too! She saw me. She listened. And she knows me and all these events. What a relief! It was so difficult to be invisible.
Now, having been heard, I can move on to processing that event that hurt so badly. I think I will also one day be able to go back to the day of that phone call or even the awful night before the call when I sat awake in my bed. Why was I awake? Because I was. I felt sure that what happened was going to happen. As if God prepared me for this, as if He Himself told me before the event... and I sat awake with Him, not praying with words, but watching... watching with my heart in my eyes... and gathering those who I knew would pray... they were praying before the crisis hit.
But I am like buoy with a weight in the bottom... I can get tossed about quite a bit, but eventually, I will bob back up to the surface and right myself. Eventually, I stop steaming and storming and sobbing, and sit in that exhausted silence of a spent child before God. Then, after He has been silent with me for some time, He gently begins to speak.
Tomorrow, I will write what He spoke.
Monday, April 12, 2010
What was the name of that story?
The story of The Good Samaritan - well that is the title we always give it. It is as if the very way we were taught Bible stories puts a spotlight on certain people on the stage. Our eyes follow them and the others fade into the background. This is also the story of The Beaten Jew, but we don't tell his story. He is just a prop from our Sunday School point of view. Not to Jesus. I don't think Jesus was telling a flat, one-dimensional story.
He was also telling the story of The Beaten Jew. The one who endured not only the attack by robbers - that sudden, horrific, cruel act that left him bloody and battered. Helpless on the side of the road needing immediate aid if he was to survive, he lay there. Who knows how long?
Then hope - his people - those set apart to serve and minister. Through his swollen eyes, he saw them approach. But they walked on by. They thought about themselves more than him. Did not want to minister to his obvious needs, abandoning him in his crisis. Perhaps they did not want to risk that he would die, and they would be defiled. We don't know. But they walked on by. Twice. The priest and the Levite.
His heart was crushed. His hope proved empty. Questions swarm in his mind, his faith called into doubt. His head sinks back into the bloody dirt around him while flies buzzed over his wounds. He doesn't even bother to open his eyes at the next footsteps that sound on the path. What hope is there?
But while those who should have cared did not, God had not left him. He only sends in another - not the ones we expect, but the one God could count on. God always has His remnant, His faithful ones, like He told Elijah. He always has those He can send in. He has not forgotten.
As much as this story is the story of The Good Samaritan, it is also the story of The Bruised Jew. What did he need? Bandaging, oil, rest, food, care - these were provided. It is also the story of The God Who Did Not Forget. It is the story of a God who was not hampered by the failure of His own.
And I sit here wondering... did the Beaten Jew take longer to recover because not only was his body beaten, but his hope, his heart, too? Maybe he did... but God was there.
So this story comes to my thoughts. An awareness that this, too, did not surprise God. It did me. It whammed me from out of the blue when I was already wounded, but it did not surprise God. He'd seen it before and had His proven neighbor ready - the one He could count on to show mercy.
This story follows a command to love others as ourselves. It answers a specific question from one seeking to justify himself in not obeying that command. We are to love without any excuse. Without justification to exclude - which means, I guess, even that we are to love the priest and the Levite who thought of themselves more and rejected the needs of the wounded. We are to show mercy. Even to the unmerciful.
And we, as children, still look up and ask our Father for correction of wrongs. Love seeks the good of others. At times, it is good to be corrected.
Mercy and correction... an interesting balance. I haven't figured it all out. But I will write out something I wrote in my journal at the beginning of this pain from this person.
"God, Hebrews 13:17 "as ones who will give account".. You said it, not me. And I will hold You to it. Hold him to account. I chose to forgive for Your sake. You hold him to account for my sake. Defend Your daughter. Correct Your child. Hold him to account."
Balanced with mercy. Both are important. Correction and mercy. Perhaps correct him in the same way I love it when God corrects me - with a quiet gentleness.
But my job is to show mercy. Even to those who don't.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Always a Stranger
I don't belong. And I still long to.
What has hurt in the aftermath of dealing with this crisis is the stark reminder that I do not belong. I am a foreigner, a stranger.
I've been a part of this team for seven years now. For seven years, we have lived with, worked with, played with, and been a part of these people's lives. We shared houses, shared meals, and shared work. We painted, moved, ached, and laughed together. I've been there for every baby's birth, every hospitalization, sickness, and celebration. We've put our life into our team, and they have become family.
But I am still a foreigner. My husband is not, but I am.
When this crisis hit, no one came. I sat alone, very alone, for the first two days, and then after that my house was filled with volunteers from the church helping. But no one from our team.
They told me later on why they did not come. "You are a foreigner and different than us, so we didn't know if you wanted us there."
I may be a foreigner, but I am still human. I still hurt.
That hurt again to hear that... "you are a foreigner". Still. Seven years later.... likely it will be the same twenty-five years later, or forty. Always a stranger.
I am a stranger where I live. I am a stranger when I go "home". I am stranger in my team. I am a stranger where I work. Forever a stranger.
One day, I want to walk in somewhere and hear, "she's home". Likely it won't be until I am home. This being a stranger is difficult.
But I have learned Hebrews. And when I turn my eyes up to God with pain at again being excluded as the stranger, I hear what is written about Abraham. He lived as an alien... as in a foreign land.
Then the verses which repeat in my head over the hurt of again being slapped in the face with the very fact of being a foreigner. "All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them."
Every time tears fall over being always a stranger, God quietly repeats those verses to me. He is not ashamed of me, and He has prepared a city. In that place, I will belong. In that place, I will no longer be a stranger. Neither will the very ones who call me foreigner right now. We will all belong.
Comfort. But comfort which does not take away the pain. It still hurts to be excluded, to be left uncomforted in pain because "you are not like us". Life still hurts. I still long to walk in somewhere and be at home. I still want to belong.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Telling the Story
I would have liked the chance to say good-bye.
I've wanted to tell the story. I'd like to try, but hampered by the fact that this is anonymous. I can't tell who I am nor exactly what happened. That may be fine, though, because so far that is all I have been able to tell - what happened, what I did, what others did, what happened. Never once anything about what was going on under the surface - not about what I was thinking or feeling.
I might try to do that. You'll have to forgive me that it sounds a little confusing and leaves you wondering "What happened?!" It has to do that. But I might begin to talk.
I am still a little stunned. That is wearing off and now I am confused. Looking around at this new normal and wondering what it will mean. I think there are changes coming up, and I have lived through too many changes to be excited at any more. I've hid this week in working more at a job I usually only do four days a month - the routines of working with the dying. Other people needed time off, and I needed routines and needed to be focused on something besides ministry right now since that is in such a turmoil time.
The story is disappearing, though, among the stress and change, and I'd still like to write. I'd still like to sit with a friend and tell the story from beginning to end and let someone feel what I felt.
But perhaps, like the earthquake, some of those feelings may stay covered up right now because they were very difficult to handle.
Friday, April 16, 2010
That Week Before
The few days before he travels, we always have this unusual routine and feelings we go through. Sort of a checklist preparing for the "what if". This trip, we didn't do much of that. I had just returned and was feeling sick. We had some errands to do, so we never even took the time to curl up together and spend time together.
But at his first stop, we talked often by phone and skype. Talked and talked. It was really good to connect, to tease each other, and have fun. There were a few things bothering us - some conflicts between people close to us and some plans others had that worried us, so we talked. We would have talked these things over with someone else there, but that person wasn't being normal, and it had both of our antenna up. Towards the end, we were both feeling certain that something was going to happen, but we were focusing on the wrong thing. Still we talked and talked - way more than normal for when he is gone.
I was thankful for those times of talking later. I knew where my husband's heart was and he knew mine. That really helped in the days that followed, and throughout the difficult times, I hung on to those conversations with all I had.
We had discussed something that I had done recently while traveling, and I had asked my husband if a certain action I took had bothered him. It was something I might not normally do, but I did that one time. He smiled. I heard it in his writing even before he finished. He smiled and said, "Of course not! I fully and completely trust you."
This was one gift I hung on to. I thought back to the year we struggled while we sorted out some things in our lives and when he was crashing from years of no sleep, and I smiled. Life was good.
But we both sensed a cloud looming. I grew up in tornado country. It was that same feeling - the clouds are dark and heavy, and we can feel our hair standing up, but we had no idea where it would come from.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
The Long Night Before the Call
The first inkling I had of anything really wrong was one evening when my husband was talking to me on skype. He told me his plans for that day, and I was immediately concerned. Something didn't sound right. When I think back on it, I really wonder why I reacted that way. It is something he has done many times. I did it myself not too long ago. It was nothing horribly out of the ordinary. But somehow that little thing that went wrong earlier meant that this next action was not done the way we would normally do it. The more I listened to the plans and how things were unfolding, the more concerned I grew. I literally begged my husband for an hour not to do what he was headed to do. If skype had a transporting device, I would have been using it and standing with my hands on my hip in front of him insisting that he do not do it! But we could only write each other.
I usually do not act like this, but I was worried. I told him that I know that if he does this, things are going to go wrong. I begged him not to. He was so relaxed about it, knowing that it couldn't be done the normal way, but was sure that nothing would happen. But because of my begging, he agreed to do a little bit of last minute changes, (which I found out later he was unable to do). Still I insisted that it was not good enough. Finally, he said he would ask our friend's advice and do what he said. I relaxed because I trusted this man and figured he would stop him.
But the worry remained through the night. It was a long, lonely night. I sat for about an hour staring at my computer trying to distract myself, but was not relaxing. I am used to getting a phone call that he is going to do something and he will phone me when he returns, and am more aware to be praying during those times, but nothing like this. I sat that night with a deep sense of fear as my company.
About an hour into the wait, I decided that we needed people praying. I made some calls and got groups in two of my "home" locations to pray. Then I sat some more through that very long night. My thoughts ran back and forth through many things...
I remembered walking with my husband shortly after he proposed and talking over what life would be like for us. We knew that with what we wanted to do, there would be no guarantees of safety...
I remembered things I had said that I wish I hadn't....
I sat thinking about four sleeping heads tucked in their beds and about what I would say to them tomorrow if I had not heard...
But mostly I sat....
Sometimes I asked God why these two together? ... If there was one person I would phone in a situation like this, it would be this friend who was over there with him. ... Sometimes I was thankful they were together. Sometimes, I simply sat with tears running down my face and asked God, "not both, please, not both". My thoughts ran to two other wives who were caught up in this event and did not know it yet. Wondering, praying. One would not take this well... praying for her and for her husband.... I actually grew pretty insistent with God that He let this one walk away....
But mostly I sat quietly...
I remembered the wonderful week my husband and I had, the laughter, the great talks...
I remembered the pain in the eyes of a friend of mine who I watched through the time she lost her husband in car crash... raw pain.... shuddered at the thought of walking that path myself...
I remembered praying for another friend about whose husband we didn't know for a long time... praying day and night through that time, and the good news that came after months.... sick at the thought of going through what she went through...
But mostly, I sat quietly....
I sat through that night with fear as my company and my eyes on God. Praying little, because what is there to say just then? But watching God, looking to Him in the silence, praying with every breath. Begging Him to keep everyone safe.
Then in the morning, I got that phone call.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
The Call That Never Came
I rubbed my eyes and looked at the clock. Noticed the time.
Then I stretched out in bed and stared out the window at the sky. And prayed. I was so glad he phoned. He had known I was worried, and now all I had to do was wait about half an hour or so, and answer the phone again. Then we would smile and go on with life.
And as the minutes ticked by, my tummy tensed inside me. I watched the clock for every minute's change. I barely breathed. Twenty minutes in, I picked up the phone and made a quick call to one of the groups I had phoned the night before... pray! right now! And hung up, not wanting to miss that phone call.
An hour passed. Two hours.
Dread settled in my tummy. Something had gone wrong. Seriously wrong. It would never take this long.
I sat in bed still not daring to move, not able to wrap my head around what needed to be done. Stunned. My kids had begun to wake up and the house was full of the normal morning sounds. It was a school holiday, so there was no rush for anyone to be going anywhere. They got into fights, played games, and made themselves breakfast.
I sat staring at the clock with all my attention not in the house full of busy life, but over there... to where I could not see... but knew something was very wrong.
I didn't dare cry. Not then. Not yet. I had to survive. I had to think. I had to figure out how to walk out of my room and face our kids. How to make the horrible unknown something we could handle together.
I sat stunned, not wanting this to be my life. Hoping the phone would just ring and a laughing voice would tell me he had just forgotten to phone - he had once... telling myself I would kill him if he had! But I knew he would not forget. He knew how worried I had been. He had promised he would phone.
I had made him promise in our skype chat how he would go about doing what he did - made him promise me that they would not do it together. I told him how to do it.... but as the phone remained silent, I worried. Something had gone wrong. If he had done what I said, I should be getting a phone call from one of those men.
But my phone stayed silent. And my heart began to stand still. Tears pooled, panic threatened... but the sound of four voices giggling and laughing called me to get up and face the day.
But how do you face a day that you don't know where your husband is or if he is alive or hurt or what?
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
The Call I Did Not Want
An hour passed, and then another. Then one more. Silence still from the phone. I tested the phone a few times to see if it worked. It did. I phoned my husband's cell phone wondering if he had just got distracted. It rang and went to voice mail. I didn't dare leave a message. I dialed again, and thought better of it... he must not have it on him by now or he would have answered.
Time went by slowly while I held my breath. My heart beat louder and faster. Silence screamed through my kitchen that morning.
What do I do? Do I phone someone? Do I panic now or wait? Will my team leader laugh at me and tell me to relax and wait if I panic this soon? What do I do? Where do I start?
Another hour. The kids grew restless. Why aren't we doing anything? Can't we play outside? Won't you take us biking? My brain did not register all their requests. Then they asked to go to a park to bike - a place they can go alone. I gratefully gave permission and began to help them get ready. This would get them out of the house before the news came so I would have a few minutes to pull myself together before facing them.
We were still in the middle of gathering all they needed and making sure they had their shoes and jackets when the phone rang. I looked at the number and saw it was from my team leader. My heart fell.
He asked if I had heard from my husband. I told him what I had heard and when and asked him what he knew. He sounded grateful that I already knew there was a problem and told me the story. That one man saw what happened and when he was somewhere that he could phone from, he phoned and told what had happened.
Tears began to fall, running unchecked down my face. I sounded calm and quiet as I asked for details. Both? When? Where is the other now? Ok. Yes, I understand. Yes, I will be ok. Yes, I will check on the other wife. Yes, I have the number of the other wife who is not near by. No, she won't answer that phone -try this one. Business conducted with tears falling fast.
The kids began to come into the kitchen ready to go, so I wiped the tears and got them ready to go, hurrying them out the door. Then sat staring at them ride off down the street with smiles on their faces....
Where was their daddy? Would we see him again?
Then I stared at my phone knowing I needed to call someone. But who? Who would understand and be able to be here? What did I need? Who would know how to support me and not dump more emotions on me? What did I need to do? How do I figure this all out?
Two of my good friends were out of town on a trip for two weeks. I wanted them. My mind drew a blank of who else to phone. So I phoned my son's teacher, the husband of one of my friends. Knew I could count on him to help me think, to not be too emotional, to not let me panic.
Talking to him, I remembered who I needed to phone. She came. A good friend. Arrived as fast as she could and wrapped her arms around me. Then I let the tears fall again. We cried. Over a cup of very sweet tea, we made plans. She would stay with me until the kids came home. Then she would take my boys to her house. I would not tell the kids right away - hoping for more news by tomorrow morning - and only tell them that they could have a sleepover. My daughter would go to her best friend's - the daughter of my son's teacher. These two have been best friends since the first day of kindergarten.
A few more phone calls. To the wife of the man who made the call, who saw what happened. He was shaken. He needed to get home. His wife is my friend, like a sister to me. We had traveled together recently and grown closer. I phoned her, and she could not talk because the tears were falling and the fear was winning. I phoned another from our team and asked them to go be with her.
Then we sat in silence drinking tea and trying not to imagine what was happening to these men over there. At least we know who has them, we said. At least the other man got back safely. At least it is us as team leaders going through this and not people under us while we sit in safety. At least... Yet silence sat in long stretches in-between conversation.
Then the phone call from the other wife. So good to hear her voice. But what do you say? Yet such a relief to talk to someone who is with me - to whom I do not have to explain, who does not say, "I can not imagine what you are feeling!". I was so glad not to be alone. Yet it was difficult... I love both of these men, my husband and our friend... and his wife.. and his family... We told each other, "We always knew this day could come." Silence settled again... as if being silent enough might allow us to hear the slightest whisper of what was happening over there.
My friend stayed that morning with me. She thought of the practical things. We straightened up the house preparing for the people that would be coming. We planned how to shield the kids. When they came home, we found our smiles and got them ready to go to her house. Trying to be cheerful. So thankful for her ability to put a smile in her voice and be a place of shelter for my kids who did not know yet. Not everyone could do that without betraying that there was a crisis. The boys left laughing at the fun they would have.
My friend's husband came for my daughter. He walked up to me and hugged me. I wasn't sure he would... or what he would say... but I needed that hug. Then he picked up my daughter who giggled at the thought of staying with her best friend and left.
Silence reigned again in the house. No one came through that whole afternoon. I sat on my kitchen counter staring out at the trees on a little hill and tears ran a steady path down my cheeks. Waiting. Watching. Would I ever know?
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
On Top of a Hill
I had been out the day before on this same path with my kids, all of us laughing in the blessing of such weather, enjoying the chance to walk and listen to the birds. Today's walk was so different. Tears threatened to spill on the long walk up the hill. I longed to throw myself down and sob, but something held me back. If I was going to cry, I wanted to throw myself down in a quiet place in front of the God who held my heart. Knowing He was not surprised by the day's events, I knew He was prepared to hold me through the raw pain. It was ok to hurl myself into His arms with all the hurt and trust Him to carry it.
I got to the top of my hill, sat on a stone there, and cried. Here is a place of quietness, and I cried until my heart was empty. Then in the silence after the tears, I talked to God. I told Him that I didn't even know how to pray. I knew what I wanted, but did not want to demand. Willing to accept what He had ahead of me, and asking for strength to walk this path well. I prayed for these two that I love... the only time I had during the crisis to sit and actually spend time praying for them. I prayed that God would calm their hearts, give them clarity, peace, strength, and encouragement. That they would sleep since it was night, and that above all, they would not feel guilty or think on the mistakes, but know that God had chosen that they walk this path. He was with them.
Later on, I found out that the timing of this time on the hill was interesting - it lined up with something happening over there... but then, I did not know that.
Then still, with a very quiet heart, I went back to the lessons I had learned when my daughter had died. I made choices then that enabled me to go through that time, and I looked up again at God. I took a deep breath, very aware of what this could be meaning, and told Him the same choices then. "I chose not to question Your right to make this choice and accept that You have our best in mind. I chose not to question Your love as we walk through this pain." Not easy choices... but when all you have is God, throw yourself full force at Him. It was not a time for half-hearted trust, I knew that.
Again the tears came, and again I sat still for some time. Then quietly, I told God, "Please just let me know what is going on. Don't leave me not knowing for weeks and months on end, please. Just let me know if he is alive or dead. I can't handle the not knowing for so long."
Then I got up and began the walk down the hill and through a little patch of woods. As I walked down the hill, I saw a picture in my head. It was so similar to the picture I had after my daughter died, right before I delivered her tiny body. Again I was looking at a green hill with the rising sun coming up. My husband was walking up that hill into the light, and our daughter, Lydia, came running down toward him laughing. When he caught sight of her, he ran, swooped her up in a hug and spun her around. They both were laughing, with tears running down their faces. Happy.
I laughed. It was so beautiful that I smiled and kept smiling for my walk through those woods. So beautiful. So full of life. And through tears, I said to myself, "At least if they do kill him, at least one of us will finally be able to hug our baby, to be with her!" I have longed for thirteen years to hold my daughter just once, and there was such a joy to think one of us could. So I laughed. And then I thought, "Why am I so afraid of death? There is no such a thing as death for us. There is only life, a richer, more alive life."
From that moment on, I did not struggle with the fear of death. It still was there - fear of him being killed, of going on without him, but not the dread of death. Death is not final, life is.
But as I continued to walk I wondered, "God what are You trying to tell me with this picture?" Was it only not to be afraid of death? Was it only to remind me of the lessons He taught me when He took my daughter or was He trying to gently tell me something?
I did not know. That question lingered throughout the long night that I was alone. But so did the joy, the comfort... the peace in remembering that we have life that no one can take from us.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The First Night
We visited for awhile. I helped her figure out how to get support in for her. Her children came and looked at me with tears in their eyes. I stayed for an hour, but that was all I could take... I needed to guard my emotions. I knew it was unlikely that I would see my husband again, but I did not need pity and fear. I needed trust and comfort. So after an hour, I left.
I walked on to another friend's house. Knowing that I struggle to eat when I am under stress, I wanted to ask my friend to feed me. But she was not home. So I walked home. I checked the mail and the messages - nothing.
After another hour, I thought that I should force myself to eat to keep my strength up. I opened the cupboard to see if there was anything easy to cook. There was a can of soup, so I pulled it out, but could only stare at it blankly. Figuring out how to open it and cook it was beyond me at the time. I was still stunned and unable to manage simple tasks.
Finally, I picked up the phone book of the school and began to phone those who lived close by. I got a friend who had just come in with her four kids and was eating. I asked if she would bring me some leftovers when they were done. She did - she hurried right over with food.
For the first time since my friends took my children at noon, I had someone to sit with me, to absorb some of the shock with me. They day had been painfully lonely, and now there was a person here. She sat with me with tears in her eyes while I ate. We drank tea together and talked. She hugged me, cried with me, and was simply with me. It was something special.
When she left, I moved my base of operations to my room - computer and phones on the bed... hoping.
And thought I would sleep.
But I didn't want to sleep. I sat awake in my bed that night not wanting to close my eyes and sleep. Why?
That morning, I had talked to my husband. That day, I had heard his voice. I did not want to go to sleep and wake up on another day where I had not talked to him, and that be my future... I sat awake crying at the thought of sleeping and facing a day when I had not talked to him. I didn't think I could handle that.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The Watching in the Night
The night was long and silent. At times a person would skype with me telling me to do this or that or think about this or that. I found myself being asked questions that I had no idea what to do about. Very quickly, I learned to pass decisions on to those in authority over me and work only within what they asked me to do. A crisis demands a clear line of authority and reaction.
I contacted those praying and updated them. I chatted with a friend who kept me sane that first day.
But mostly, I sat watching the night go by.
I finally slept only when the other wife woke up. Passed off the duty to be awake to her, and slept for two hours waking often with stomach pain.
After this, I decided I would not eat again. I drank anything I was given, but I knew better than to eat.
I thought about the next day, realizing that in the morning I would need to tell my kids. That night, I prayed for them... that God would give me wisdom, that they would continue to trust God and find Him good. And I prayed for our men... but that night not with words... with the silence of sitting in front of God with my eyes on Him watching. He knew my heart and I opened it in front of Him. It was a time that words could not have captured.
And in between, I dozed for brief moments. Finally, exhaustion set in around 5am, and I slept for two hours.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
The Mornings Were the Hardest
I rolled over and sobbed. I cried loudly early that morning, my stomach heaving at the thought of facing the day to come. Comfort and peace did not come.
After the tears settled, I got up and began to get ready for the day, but even walking across the house to the bathroom was difficult... my legs would not hold me and my body shook with fear and pain. The pressure of all that was facing me crushed me and mocking thoughts filled my head...
I leaned on the counter in the bathroom staring at my face... trying to find out where I was in the middle of all this. Then I knew that I can't do this. I can not give in to these mocking thoughts.
I picked up my head and began to speak firmly, "You have not won! Jesus won that victory when He died and when He was raised from the dead. It is finished. The victory is won, and you can not have it. And even if they kill him over there, you still have NOT won! I will not be afraid, but chose to trust!"
The heaviness and mocking left, and I was left in the silent house once more. Mechanically, I began to straighten things. I updated those praying. I connected with those running the crisis. Did things I was asked.
That morning, I learned to deal with false hopes. Twice news came in about where they were and that they were safe, but the news turned out to be rumor. I learned to guard my heart and stay within those who were responding to the crisis. I had confidence in these people. But the effect on my emotions of false hopes twice was devastating.
I also reached out to find one friend who could help. She had been through a similar thing when her kids were my kid's ages. But she was not answering her phone.
I phoned my friends who had my kids and set up plans to bring them home and talk to them. I wanted both these friends with me then. My pastor also decided to come. We needed them - I am one mom with only two arms, and I was about to break four kids' hearts.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Telling the Kids
Then the time came that the kids would arrive. The boys came first with the mom who had them. My daughter came about half an hour later. So for half an hour, the boys ran around the house excited at all the fun they had, laughing and wrestling. My friend and I stood in the kitchen and watched them. So happy, so bubbly, so unaware of what was going on over there.
Then my daughter came with my son's teacher. We went into the living room, and I told them I need to tell them something. Very briefly, I explained what had happened. Our pastor walked in right as I began. The faces of my two oldest children went white. My oldest put his head down and would not look up again. He struggled for control, and my heart ached for him. The second stared with his eyes wide and unbelieving. Then he began to question why God didn't stop this from happening. He could have, mom, you know! The third was quiet, staring off into space. After a few minutes, he scooted over to lean against me and cry. My daughter burst into wails and threw herself in my arms sobbing.
The younger two needed my arms. They both cried for a long time, but it was the older two who worried me. They sat stunned with white faces and I could not reach them. My son's teacher moved over to put his hand on my son's head and sit with him. We all sat and tried to answer the questions and comfort the tears, but how do you comfort in the unknown?
Fifteen minutes later, while my lap was still full of a sobbing daughter, the phone rang. There was a request of me - something I was needed to do to help someone involved in this. I didn't want to. Not then. But, the person needing help also had children, and his children's faces were white with streaked tears. So I picked up my sobbing daughter and plunked her down in the lap of my friend and went to the phones.
For the rest of the day, I was on the phone and skype. I would get a few pauses in there where I could check on the people caring for my kids. They did well. Another couple came to cook and play with the kids. The teacher left. My friend took my second son off to get some photo-copies that I needed. Our pastor spent some time watching my oldest who had taken off to the roof to get some time alone. People were there caring for my children, and I was grateful. But my heart broke for them, and I wanted to simply sit on the floor crying with them. I struggled with finding the balance between responding to the situation as I needed to do to get help and being a mom. It was a difficult balance, one I am still not sure I did the best at.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
I had my phone glued to my side - what if he was able to call? Not wanting to miss anything.
I also talked with all the people who phoned in to express sympathy or find out how they can help. Different groups praying all over the world meant updating them, explaining the approach to this situation, and clarifying details. I worked on finding help for my kids and others on our team. I spoke to people who would be responding to the situation where I was and managing our care. Setting in place volunteers and assistance to make it through the next while.
I spoke to the other wife. Often staying in contact, sharing what we knew... The one place I could talk about how I was feeling and what thoughts were running through my head without worrying. Some of those talks were difficult. Discussing what if only one comes home... it looked like that might happen... how are you going to feel? Wanting to go over responses to different scenarios so we were prepared with open communication.
After the kids were in bed, I asked my volunteer to sit by my phone and computer and watch for any messages and call me immediately. Then I went to pray with each of my kids.
My daughter was still crying. "Mommy, what if he never comes home?" How do you answer that from a seven year old when it is quite likely that will be a possibility? I can't promise what I haven't been guaranteed. I settled with telling her we are going to trust God and wait and see. She still clung to my neck and sobbed, so I moved her to my bed where she could cuddle Daddy's pillow and fall asleep.
Number 3 was in his bed smiling and happy to hug me. I stood there looking at him wondering what is going on in his head... is he really ok or just pretending? So I asked, "hey, little guy, are you ok? Are you worried?" He looked up with his cheery little voice and said, "No, I'm not worried. I know that God is taking care of Daddy, so why should I be worried about it?
Oh to have his faith!
Number Two was a little harder. Of all the kids, he was the one who most questioned God. Why did He allow this? I sat with him a long time. He also asked if anyone had ever come back when things had gone wrong like they did here. I told him a story about another friend who did - the situation looked much worse, and he came home safely. I told him we will chose to trust.
When I got to my oldest, I was low on energy. How do you go through this four times... four kids who are deeply worried? (Well, maybe three - one was cheerful!) So I got to the oldest, and he is a logical thinker, a math man. He looked up and said, "So mom, tell me the way it is... what is the ratio of people this happened to who came back safe?" I smiled - got to hand it to him for looking at the percentages! I told him the truth, and restated that we will chose to trust, but whichever way it goes, we will be ok. He nodded with tears in his eyes and asked to be left alone to think.
My pastor phoned wondering about the next day. Would we come to church or did we need to be alone? I thought about staying home. Didn't know if I had the emotional energy to handle people. But then I thought about my kids.... We, I needed to be with people. We needed to go on. So we would go to church. I went over some details of what would be said and when with the pastor and then wished him good night.
I went back to the phone and computer - my two constant companions. The volunteers went home, and silence settled again. I should go to bed, but I could not. I sat staring at the screen. All was quiet.
Late that night, I got an e-mail from a friend asking what is going on - she had heard from somewhere something was up. Thank God for this friend. I had not talked directly to her since our firsts were still in diapers. Last year, her husband was killed in an incident on the road - sudden, tragic, senseless. She has four kids the same ages as mine. I told her, and she phoned.
This was the biggest blessing of the day - someone to talk honestly to. Someone who had walked the path ahead of me and done it well. We discussed how to handle kids, and she simply listened and responded with real sympathy and love that touched me. Halfway through, I felt awful - I had never told her I was so sorry about her husband! I said so, and she brushed me off, "Oh honey, I know you are sorry about him! But right now you don't need to worry about that... right now you need someone!" The love and care and understanding she gave me that night was a blessing. Then she turned to laughter, and we laughed and cried about stupid things that happened in our lives. I hung up after talking to her feeling like someone had held me and reached my heart.
I lay in bed that night again unable to sleep. Once I dozed for an hour or two, but most of the night, I sat watching chatter back and forth from people and simply wondering what was happening to these two men I loved way over there. Would I ever know?
The next day was the first day that wasn't going to be a holiday. There might be a chance someone might found out something.... So I sat awake watching for any thing.
Only silence. And then the morning sky streaked pink again - one more day not knowing where he was. This day we had to get up and go to church. Alone.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Sometimes It Is Just The Little Things
Ten minutes before we were to leave, I was feeling nervous. What if I could not handle all the people? Should I leave the house and the phones? What if he called? What if I just started sobbing and couldn't stop in front of all these people? I regretted saying I would be there.
Then the doorbell rang. I was still in my pjs, so wasn't sure about opening it, but peeked out. Ahh.. a friend. I had tried to phone her several times yesterday, but there was no answer. She had been out all Friday and Saturday and had only got home late that night and had heard the news. She has four kids of her own and needed to get them ready for church, too, but she came over. She just came over to drop off some cookies and to give me a hug. I leaned against her for a few minutes resting, drawing strength to face my day.
A small blessing, but one I so needed just then.
Then we headed out the door to church.
Monday, April 26, 2010
How Can We Sing?
By this time, about half of the church knew what the situation was. Others didn't, but there would be a meeting at the end of church to update everyone and plan how to best meet the crisis.
I was unsure how I would do, but wanted to go on. My kids were in shock and were watching me to see how we would respond. I wanted to live out for them the truth that we can go on, and we will do that choosing to trust God. We won't waver on that trust even when the tears fall and our eyes widen in shock at what is happening to us. But that knowledge did not make walking in to church that morning easy.
It didn't help that the topic that week was suffering. It didn't help that each of the songs were ones I loved... but ones that pull emotions from me on the best of days. Singing of God's worth, His faithfulness, and our desire to follow Him no matter what... It was just that this particular Sunday, our "no matter what" was looking pretty big.
We stood to sing. I picked up my daughter to sit on my hip, her hands tangled around in my hair, her cheek resting today on my shoulder. My boys stood with me, one leaning against me on each side and one trying to be brave on his own. And we sang.
As we sang, the tears threatened again. I stood looking over the heads of my children, their little faces white with worry and stress. I wondered that morning if this is the beginning of the rest of our lives. Would I be raising these kids alone? Would we ever see their daddy again? If so, how long would it be - ten years, twenty... or never? I began to tremble at the thoughts. Where was their daddy this morning? Was he alive? What were they doing to him? Would he survive? The thoughts flew fast, I began to shake and want to collapse. Wanting to just sink to the ground and sob, to give up and cry. But again my eyes ran over the tops of the heads... I can't break down... I have to be strong for them.
One set of arms wrapped tightly around my neck, and three sets of eyes stared up at me. "How are we going to act, mommy?" I was aware of the eyes. I was very aware that what I did next would set the tone for these four who watched me.
So I stayed standing. My body trembled with the effort it took. I closed my eyes and sang. I didn't dare open my eyes. If I caught one glance of sympathy right then, I knew I would lose it. But I sang. Deliberately. Not stopping when it came to difficult things to sing that morning. It took effort to chose to sing, and at times when the tears came, all I could do was whisper the lines, but I sang.
We sang "Savior, He Can Move the Mountains". I cried... I know He can.... I know that well... I also know that He does not always chose to... mercy, compassion.. please...
We sang "Give Me One Pure and Holy Passion". My voice could only whisper "this world is empty, pale, and poor compared to knowing You my Lord". It is. It really is, but so different to sing that when you know how much we want to cling to this world and what it means to make that choice to follow "over there". When you don't know where your husband is.... is he even alive still?
But I stood and I sang. We gathered into a tight little bunch, and the cracking voices of my sons sang with me. Only Number Three sang confidently and cheerfully. The rest of us struggled. Tears snuck out of our closed eyes and snaked their way down our cheeks, but we stood and sang. My own private declaration to my children and to the unseen enemy who taunts that we will chose to trust - yes, even facing what we are facing, we will chose to trust God.
But it was not private. We were in church, surrounded by others. Halfway through the singing, I began to hear sniffles and quiet sobs spreading out around me. The private declaration of continuing to trust being done in a public setting. Others were watching. Now, if you knew me, you'd know that I am not all that comfortable with public displays of emotion. (I'm growing here, but still...) Part of me just wanted to run, to go hide... Part of me wanted to tell everyone to quit crying! I'm barely hanging in here, and you are not helping! But I didn't really have enough energy to deal with that right then.
We stood, we sang, and we cried. And around us, our church sang, sniffled, and cried alongside us. It was an awesome moment. A private choice - to trust God even facing the awful unknown - made public. And just as much as the awfulness of the moment sat in my heart, came the sense that this itself was a holy moment, a time when without planning to, we were bringing glory to God simply by choosing to praise and to continue to worship even in the face of this crisis.
When the singing ended, I leaned behind me and asked a friend's kid to go running for kleenex which we passed around. I think even the pastor needed some and took half a minute before he sounded normal again.
It was the right decision to come, even though it was hard. To share my pain, to be on display with our feelings, but then also to know that others are also crying. To collectively choose to know that God is good, yes, even if they never came back. I have always hated to be on display. But it was something special that morning, something I had not planned. I came to draw encouragement from those around us. I did. But what God called us to and how we responded that day brought others to a place where they rethought how they are living.
Later a few said to us, "I never thought about what it really means to be willing to follow. I never stopped to think. Now I am." Since that day, two young people have approached us saying they believe God is calling them into missions. But I did not know that that Sunday morning. All I knew was that my heart was breaking, and I could chose to run from God with my questions and fears or run to Him. What was that David says, "Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." (Ps73:25-26)
This is my God. The One who brings good out of the difficult. Who is there even when our hearts our broken. I think of all the things I did besides telling my children, this Sunday morning's worship time was the hardest - choosing to trust, and choosing to praise even though I thought I would never see my husband again.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Stored Up Goodness
I journal often, but since that phone call, I had not journaled at all. Maybe I was too afraid to actually write out my thoughts in black and white. Maybe my mind just wouldn't focus well enough to write. Loud stillness still echoed in my mind, blocking most continued thoughts. Thoughts would rise like bubbles in a muddy pond, breaking to the surface, but the depths of the pond were still hidden from sight.
But halfway through the sermon, I picked up my journal and my pen. Needing to step into some routines that would hold me through whatever was ahead of me.
What do you say right now? My heart cries out with every breath wanting them here. And my heart also quietly rests inside me hidden in the quiet place by God's heart. A painful stillness. A certain comfort, deep, real, in the middle of the deepest part of this pain.
Then I watch my kids and the knife twists. But our commitment as a family comes back. God who gave us these children knows what He has set in front of them. He is not surprised by events nor is He incapable of nor unconcerned about caring for the children in the middle of this. He sees their hearts and cares.
As we sat in our normal family place without my husband and their daddy and wondered if we will ever sit here with the six of us or if this is our new normal, my thoughts went back to the day we stood in front of our home church with a brand new baby girl in our arms and a pack of wild toddlers by our feet. Someone asked me then, "Tell me something that makes it ok for me to let you go with that brand new sweet baby and those boys I love." I looked one of my best friends in the eyes and told her, "When God called us to do this, He knew the future already. We did not get to this stage all ready to go, to have Him look down and say to myself, "Oops! They have kids! How did that happen?!" He knew from when He knit my children together what He has called them to face in this life, and He will care for us whatever that means."
When I remembered that, I relaxed. Even with the worst "what if" facing us, God is not surprised by today nor unable to meet us through our tomorrow. I opened to my favorite Psalm that has carried me through rough place before and read. It was a psalm God spoke to me with during another difficult time in my life. He has goodness stored up - not caught by surprise and unprepared, but stored up and ready for when we need it. Psalm 31 became the psalm I read over and over during the next few days.
How great is Your goodness,
Which You have stored up for those who fear You,
Which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You,
Before the sons of men!
You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man;
You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.
Blessed be the LORD,
For He has made marvelous His lovingkindness to me in a besieged city.
I learned this by heart and clung to it. God has stored up goodness for this very thing, and He will make His lovingkindness marvelous to us - to us here and to them there... even a besieged city can not stop Him.
He had goodness stored up for us, and when we went running to Him, He had comfort ready and waiting for us all.
It didn't change what we were facing, but Sunday was when I saw God begin to step in with His comfort and care of us. When I was running out of energy, running out of ability to hang on and keep going, He wasn't. And He kept caring for me, a careful, detailed, personal care of me right through to the end.
I didn't want to leave church that morning. I sat with others drinking more sweet, milky tea. It was really the only thing I could put down my tummy that would not cause intense pain. My church formed a team to meet the crisis. I was thankful for their care. They set up people to manage caring for my family so I did not need to do that. They asked what I needed and what I did not need. They coordinated responses between the church and the school. It felt like someone had just lifted a load off my shoulders.
From this time on, my house was full of people. People who dropped everything to care for us. I had only two rules I asked them to respect. Don't touch my answering machine - my husband's voice in on there telling me he arrived somewhere safely, and I don't want it erased. The second was simple. Don't come in my room. It still smells like my husband in here, and I don't want people in there. If I go in my room and shut the door, leave me alone - don't even knock. I am a person who needs my time alone to deal with life. I also explained that I can't eat under stress, but promised to drink anything people gave me. People listened to those rules well - no one came near my bedroom other than to drop off another drink except for Monday morning when I frantically called my friend to come sit with me for the longest wait in the whole time.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Thankfully, before that happened, God had a special surprise waiting for me. As I walked in the house, the phone was ringing. Remember that friend I had tried to phone earlier - the one who had walked this path ahead of me? I couldn't get through to her for two days, and gave up. She was phoning. She and her husband had checked their voice mail on vacation and heard my message. She phoned.
What an encouragement! A chance to ask questions... how do I do this? What about this? What about that? How do I talk to my kids? What do I watch out for? How did you do it? This woman is someone I've known since I was a child. She has always had an air of quiet gentleness about her, and she comforted me that afternoon with that same gentle quietness. She told me that she and her husband had decided they would phone me every day that it lasted until we knew. What a relief! Someone I could count on. Who knew what it is like to be a wife and a mother in this. I asked her some hard questions, "people are going to say.... they did it with you... how do you deal with that?" And she answered very simply, "You just ignore them. You do what God tells you to do, and you trust that He is in control not only of what happened now, but of all that happens after this."
The day after this phone call became a blur of activity and calls - some friendly and others business, but the quiet gentleness that this woman passed on to me strengthened me. Then her husband talked to me. He had some other things to tell the kids - which when I did, got the first giggle out of them in two days. I also hung up the phone and told the kids who phoned and told them their story. Strong encouragement for us all.
But it was during the talk with her husband and then the next two phone calls that I began to feel that God was talking to me, telling me something.... I was afraid to hope, afraid to believe it, afraid to stick my neck out and say what I thought God was saying...
Monday, April 26, 2010
A Quiet Hope
The quiet hope, the calm assurance that God was leading me to ask something began to grow.
Then came another phone call. This was the first person who I told what I think God was saying to. His response was gentle, but cautious. Warning me that this likely could take a long time, or longer, and not to get my hopes up. Telling me how to pace myself for the long term. I listened - this is a man who knows what he is talking about.
But God was quietly telling me to ask for tomorrow.
Tomorrow?! That was IMPOSSIBLE! That would be unheard of... ask for tomorrow??!!
I thanked him for his advice, and said I would begin to take those steps tomorrow, but right now I am getting a quiet conviction that we need to be asking God for tomorrow. I'm sure he hung up shaking his head and thinking I was not facing reality.
Throughout the day, we continued to prepare for the long term. I organized papers, worked some things to make sure things stayed safe, and kept people updated. I am not an organized person on the best of days, so finding all the paperwork and stuff was difficult. Then I began on some important calls - this took over three hours for the first set! Endless calls, trying carefully to balance calmness and emotion... endless explanations... business conducted about my husband in the middle of a broken heart trying to be rational and thinking.
It took a lot of energy! Thankful for the team at my house who cared for my kids and distracted them. Thankful for a friend who kept popping in with different things to drink to keep my energy up. Thankful for the prayers of many carrying me through that day.
I had two more sets of calls to make. I was running out of energy, but kept slogging through. The last ones were the most difficult to make as I had to operate in a language that I did know well.... at least not the vocabulary that I needed for this situation.
Then I sat staring at my screen. How much did I trust what I felt God was saying to me? It seemed unbelievable... but would I do it? I am not the type of person that likes to go around saying something only to be proved wrong and made to look like an idiot. And to say I thought God was telling us to ask for tomorrow?! Already the first person had gently cautioned me not to think like that.
But I sat quietly for a few minutes... then I picked up the phone and made the first of many calls late that night. "I feel like God is telling me to ask for tomorrow morning. Will you commit to praying the night tonight?"
Later on, I got another confirmation from one person. He phoned to say that tomorrow morning would be key.... I phoned the people again, "please pray between this time and this time especially!"
As evening fell, the volunteers tucked my kids in bed, straightened the house up, and drifted off. Another couple came to sit with me a few hours in the late evening, and I shared with them what I thought God was saying. We sat and drank tea, and began to discuss the "after".
After he come home...... what do we need? What is that going to look like? How are we going to set up the care? What will the kids need?
All in all, it was wonderful to even talk about "when" instead of "if".
Finally, they too left, and I was alone again. Still work to do. Even with a quiet hope, I still had to take steps to prepare in case he didn't. Still working on my assigned jobs - things I wasn't good at on the best of days, but struggled to learn and figure out. Very thankful for a handful of people who stayed awake with me and coached me through these tasks.
And as I worked, my eyes kept drifting to the clock... morning would be soon... morning would be soon...
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I Can't Stay Awake Forever - Even when I Want to!
After I finished with her, I continued to work on another task... plodding through until around five am, I could not manage to move the mouse in any semblance of control... if I was driving, I would have looked intoxicated.... I was just reaching the end of my physical capabilities. I set the computer to the side, and lay down in tears... wanting to finish that task... knowing that everything left undone left potential for more troubles for others... but oh, so tired!
And morning "over there" had come and gone....
my heart began to beat with that familiar thudding of impending doom and tears fell, but I was simply too tired to even be able to cry. I shot off a quick e-mail to the friend who was on the scene first when I got the call and asked her to head over at 7am and take care of getting my kids ready for school. I was crashing and crashing hard..
then I slept.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
When Hope Disappears
But I slept, only conscious enough to know that they were safe and being cared for.
An hour later, I woke up again and looked at the clock. It was morning. It was past morning "over there". My heart sank...
"God, I thought You said...."
I waited until I heard the door shut as the kids went out with my friend before I threw myself back down on my bed and sobbed....
I cried and cried.... sobbing from the depths of my heart....so disappointed... "Why God? Why? I was so sure You said to ask for this morning! Why did You have us ask only to mock us now?!"
And I sobbed until the tears ran out. My heart was broken and all hope disappeared.
When my friend came back, I asked her to stay to man the phones. I told her only three people were people to wake me up for, but for everyone else to tell them I was sleeping. I planned to sleep the day away, and transition into long term mode...
I lay my head down on my pillow in tears. I was so tired! My eyes closed... then they popped open...
Wait. Maybe I should phone this one person - he will at least know what happened today.
So I dialed his number...
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The Longest Wait
And morning came and went with no news.
It made me doubt my ability to hear God. It ripped all my hope away. And soon, very soon, people would be calling for news... there was none... Already one couple had stopped by to give me a hug. I appreciated their visit, and then told them that I had been up all night for several nights and was giving in this morning and going to bed. They held me and prayed with me and left with their eyes full of tears, too.
I went to bed, hopeless and unable to answer those calls... not even sure what God was doing... unable to look up at Him... why had He spoke only to disappoint?
But there was that one person I was supposed to phone. I stopped first to send off two messages to the two main groups praying and told them not to phone me for a few hours - I was going to try to rest. Then I picked up the phone... did I really want to know? What had happened that day "over there"? What would be the news when I phoned? Obviously not something good... Would it just be an eternity of "we don't know"?
Finally, I dialed the number. It was around 10:30. The man answered and immediately sounded distracted, breathless, tense... Every muscle in me tensed, too, wondering... Then he told me that he can't talk then, but not to leave the phone - he'd get back to me in about half an hour hopefully with some great news...
This is when I broke the rule about no people in my bedroom. How thankful I was later that I had called for my good friend to come that morning - I needed her. I called, and she came and sat with me. We both sat there, physically shaking, shivering, staring in turns at the phone and the clock.... wishing we had any idea of what was going on "over there".
The longest wait of the entire time. Half an hour stretched to forty-five minutes, and we waited.... My tummy heaved and my teeth chattered. My friend shook, too... this long, and what would be the news?
Then the phone rang...
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
That Phone Call
I answered the phone, and said hello, and my husband's voice called my name! He was safe!
If I had been shaking before, I shook worse then. My friend and I sat smiling with tears pouring down our faces. I tried frantically to skype the other wife so she would not have to wait a millisecond more to hear the news. But mostly, I clung to the sound of my husband's voice.
He only talked to me for a minute or two and said he would phone later. They had to move from where they were. I didn't have enough time to ask when is later or where you are going... and he hung up.
My body felt like the air had drained out of it. I could not stop crying. Still thoroughly exhausted to the point that it was hard to get my hands to function on a keyboard, still emotionally drained, but oh, so happy! Immediately, I dialed the other wife. To be able to tell her, "yes, they are safe! I talked to them! No, I did not talk to your husband, but I heard his voice - I had asked specifically if he was there, wanting to hear his voice, not content only to be told... I needed to hear their voices. They will come home!"
Like me, she was in shock, believing and unable to believe - needing to hear herself. I understood that, and hoped they would phone her immediately, too. We both hung up to phone our children.
Then we sat, my friend and I , and cried. We cried and cried. It was hard to believe. It had been impossible, and it had just happened.
She left to get me a cup of tea - more sweet, milky tea to keep me going, and I made the first of many calls. My hands shook so badly that it was hard to dial the numbers. The first was to my kids. I so wanted to run over and tell them myself... but... there were so many that needed to know, and doing that would take half an hour. So I phoned in to the school, and asked a dear friend of mine there to gather them immediately and tell them all together.
The second, I had promised, was to my husband's family. They are not believers, so it was something to be able to tell them that the impossible had happened. They could not believe it. There was no way that what had happened just did, but it had, and I got to tell them that God did it. Then began the calls - working both on the phone and on skype fielding several conversations at once. What joy, what tears of pure joy, that day!
Halfway through the calls and the celebrations, I paused for a minute, looked at my friend who had sat through the heart-crushing disappointment and the unbelievable joy with me, and laughed. I said, "God said to ask for tomorrow morning. I just assumed it was the time zone for "over there". He meant our time zone! It is still morning!"
Next time, I've got to remember to ask God which time zone He's operating in!
After two hours of celebrating with those all over the world who heard the news, I skyped the other wife to watch for me and wake me if there is more news. My friend took the phones and headed downstairs. Once more, I curled up in bed in tears to try to sleep. Only these were happy tears.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Still, it was wonderful to simply be able to close my eyes, tears still trickling out, and rest. To relax some muscles, cover myself with blankets to stop the endless shivering, to rest... My mind never shut down to sleep, but my body did rest.
I got up two hours later. My friend was there still waiting for me. Writing this, I am amazed at my friends and their commitment to me. How much they were just there for me. I would not have made it through without them. She was still there, eight hours later, sitting with me, letting me sleep. Putting her whole life on hold to just be in my house in case I needed her. She got up and made me a soup which I was able to eat. We ate together sitting in the sun pouring in the window. Totally drained, totally spent, and totally incredulous at what God had done.
Then my phone rang. There were complications. Yes, we were in contact now, but the situation was not entirely settled and a risk for more problems existed. Here came an hour of conversation between five groups of people in different places with different ideas. Confusion at what people were saying reigned. Different priorities of different people came into play. It was a mess!
What it meant to us is that we went back into that stress mode - working, watching to see what would happen. Start up again - alert the prayer teams, communicate, do what could be done from where we were.
And wait. Again.
Hadn't we just been here? More tense waiting? Tears fell again - tears of frustration, of exhaustion, of just wanting my husband! He was so close - I could hear his voice... I just wanted him!
It was time to go pick up the kids. To see their smiles, to hug them, to rejoice with them. But not to tell them what they did not know - that it was not all clear yet. I decided I would not burden them with that knowledge unless something else bad happened.
So I was a mom of deliriously happy kids trying to look happy while deeply concerned about the current situation. Again, very thankful for the presence of my friend who helped distract the kids and keep order in the house.
My husband phoned in again, and the kids got to talk to him, frantically gathered around the computer, talking all at once. It didn't matter what was said, they got to hear his voice! Then they were at peace.
Somewhere around 4 pm, there came a changing of the guard. This friend of mine who had been there for so much went home, and another showed up. I briefed her on the situation, and she set to in the kitchen cooking with the kids and let me return to my bedroom to try to rest. There was nothing more I could do but wait at this point. I was hoping to hear some good news around midnight, so I decided to sleep if I could.
Ah, this adrenaline! It would not let me sleep. Every time my eyes closed, my dreams filled with awful scenarios, and I jerked awake again. Still, I stubbornly kept at it knowing that even the stolen minutes were so desperately needed if I was to survive the coming night.
I knew that I would not sleep well until I had heard that they were on their way home.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Evening of Preparation
Continued stress will take it's physical toll eventually. It may let you function a long time, but will eventually present the bill.
Eventually, I got off the floor and sat in my favorite chair. My daughter snuggled up on my lap and my friend brought me another cup of tea. I looked at my daughter's plate of food and ate one piece of potato. It tasted good - first solid food since the first evening.
This friend was a little more stubborn than the others and she decided that I would begin to recover now that he was safe, well, at least half-way safe. So she got up and brought me a plate of potatoes with salt and butter. It was one thing I had been able to get down me when I was pregnant and queasy, so thought it would be a good thing to attempt. Oh how good hot food felt in my tummy! I ate only a little, not wanting the severe cramps that came that first night, but it was so good!
We put the kids to bed. I snuggled and prayed with each one. Then I came back to the kitchen and my friend had cleaned up everything and had another cup of tea for me. I expected her to go home for the evening, but she asked if she could stay since she lived farther away. She did, and she began to work on my laundry. Now, it was in no state of order before the crisis, so after was fearful! But she stayed the night and worked until 1 am on getting all my laundry washed, dried, and ironed. What a blessing!
In the meantime, I had talked to my husband and we had decided what would happen tomorrow. I would go and meet the men when they flew out. We would meet and spend some days together not here, but elsewhere. My home church had offered many times to fly my mom out, but I had said to wait until the weekend was over - she was on a holiday and I didn't see the reason to cancel that if this was going to be a longterm thing. Now I needed her, so she got on a plane.
Another couple from our group, but not from our team, had been very, very helpful during all this. They came every day, at least for awhile, to check in. They phoned several times a day. They did all the things I asked them to do - organizing someone to check on my kid's emotional well-being, being there to do bedtime, thinking over choices with me, even a 3am run to the office for paper we needed! They phoned this evening again, and I gave them list of things to do - my flight to arrange, travel to the airport to set up for me and my mom, communication, etc. It is not until a time of crisis when you see who you can really count on, and these two proved worth gold.
Then I went to find a suitcase. Usually, I only travel with my backpack. I just don't like to wait for baggage at airports and have learned to travel with only small day pack. But I had no idea what my husband would have with him and what he had lost. So I needed to pack. I went to find a little suitcase, and realized they were under the stairs. Normally, I would send a kid in there after it - there are spiders in there! (The boys like to play with spiders, so it is not cruel to them, and I am terrified of spiders. Like the really girly-terrified of spiders.) So I did not want to crawl under the stairs! I looked in the crawl space and told myself I just could NOT do it. Then I sat down and began to laugh... how could I face all that I have faced in the last days and then be stopped by the threat of a spider??!! So I took a breath and went in after the suitcase.
I lay it in the hallway and threw some clothes for my husband in it, and then the phone began to ring again and skype beeped. We were so hoping for news anytime that they were in a plane out, but it was not that simple. Issues came up, flights had to be found.... and the minutes ticked by. People had to be informed about the situation and that I was leaving. That in itself caused some problems since a few thought that I should not leave to meet the plane, but that they should come here so the whole team could be together right away. But, the men and us two wives wanted some time without all the people at first, so I was going to go. But that night the criticism began. "You are not doing it the way I would do it" and "You didn't think about us". These seemed to be the two big issues I ran into, and they shocked me. I never saw them coming, never dreamed that I would be criticized on that. It hurt. But my husband carried the blame for it and said to tell them that he chose that and I was not to answer others for that decision. So nice to have a husband again! Nice to have him step in and protect me!
But the night got busy. My mom would fly in an hour after I left, so I needed to update her on things with the kids. My daughter had a medical emergency that I would have normally taken her to the hospital for, but there was no time. I did know how to care for it myself, but it was one of those things I rarely did on my own kids, but that night I did. She screamed and screamed, and finally fell asleep in my arms after it was all done still sniffling. I left my mom detailed instructions on the event and where to take her for follow-up care. I also set up help for my mom - other moms who knew the schedule to help her know what had to be done.
And there was all the communication with the prayer groups - letting them know where we stood. As wonderful as it was to have people praying, it took a lot of time to manage that communication. Someone suggested in future that task might be better delegated, and it is likely true, but that communication with those groups praying were also a huge encouragement to me.
Close to midnight, I was startled by a loud knock on the door. I peeked out and there was a man with a stocking cap on outside my door. Very hestitantly, and only because my friend was there with me, I cracked the door open. A man stood outside. I didn't recognize him at first, but then he introduced himself. Of course, the musician who lives across the street! (He had cut his hair, so he looked different!). He stepped in and said he had just heard the news from his sister-in-law. He came over right away to say he was sorry, and that he was praying. He just came over to give me a hug. Such an encouragement! I thanked him, and he left again.
As the night wore on, I expected to hear any time that they were on a plane, but nothing. Worry began to grow...
Finally, after midnight, my friend settled down to sleep, and I went up to my bed. My daughter was in my bed this time since the friend had her room. I sat watching the computer screen waiting for that note that said "in the plane". It didn't come. I waited - at times chatting with different friends, at times trying to sleep but sleep would not come, at times just silent.
My daughter tossed and turned. She talks in her sleep, and once she rolled over crying and said, "....never come out...." and another time very clearly called out, "I don't want to be abandoned!" And I watched her and wondered about the trauma done to their little hearts. Would they be ok?
As the sky again streaked pink, I settled down to sleep for an hour or so, hoping to be exhausted enough that my mind would let me rest.
Friday, April 30, 2010
A Crazy Morning!
I sat in bed and checked for messages. I had an e-mail from my husband with more news. I also could just pick up the phone and hear his voice! That made it a good morning - even if things were still tense. But I was upset when I woke up that they were not already out. They were waiting for someone to do one thing. Frustration would sum up how I felt at this point... just frustration! I wanted it to be over. I wanted to be able to take a deep breath and blow it all the way out, not holding a little worry back.
I lay in bed, skyping with my husband and updating a few people who had sent questions, and my door opened. In came my friend bringing me breakfast in bed! Wow! To be so spoiled! Hot tea, scrambled eggs done just right and a piece of bread. I ate, and got up to help get the kids ready. Another friend of mine was making lunches for my kids for the whole week so I would not have to worry about that one thing. It was these little gifts that made life much easier for us. Another friend had brought piled of snack, all individually wrapped so there would be after school treats all ready for the kids. All these details cared for - such blessings.
From the very first day that I had told the kids the awful news, I had prepared them for what might happen when their daddy came back. I had told them that when daddy came out, he may have to go somewhere for a few days first to get better, and that we would be able to talk to him, but not see him for a few days, and after that he would come home. I had reminded them of that the day before. Today, I broke the news to my kids that I would be leaving to meet daddy, and they would stay here and grandma would come. There were tears, questions, and some understanding. For kids who had just gone through seeing daddy leave and then not knowing if he was coming back, letting their mommy get on a plane was rough. They could mentally understand that I was going to a safe country, not to that place "over there", but emotionally it was difficult. I began to second guess my decision, but knew I also needed to go.
I took them to school that day, spent time dropping them off, and talking with them. I promised to come and say goodbye before I left. They were slowly beginning to be excited about seeing grandma and talk of all the things they could bake with her and how they could do special things to prepare for daddy coming home.
My friend had stayed at home to listen to the phones and tell me the second anything happened. The phone call came in while I was gone that they were headed to the airport to leave. When I got home, we both sat waiting by the phone to hear that they arrived safely. Holding our breath. Then came the call - safely through, waiting to board. We began again to smile, and my friend worked on laundry.
Another friend stopped by with someone to talk to me, and another friend came over to see how she could help. I looked at her and said, "umm... I've been living in my room for five days, and it is a disaster. I don't even know what is in there, but my mom is arriving today. Do you think you could get that room ready for her?" She agreed and promised never to speak about the mess or what she found!
I sat down to talk with the person who came to talk. He would be meeting with my kids while I was gone and checking that they were handling this well emotionally. I discussed my different kids and how they deal with life. We drank more tea and cookies and talked while two people worked in circles around me. I still had not packed my things, only stuff for my husband, and it was getting closer and closer to time to leave for the airport. The friend who had been there the night took over that, and began packing what she thought I would need. This caused a smile later when I found carefully packed in my bag my umm.. "pretty" pair of underwear. I pulled them out and looked at them slightly embarrassed that they had even been in the laundry where these two ladies had seen them, but she just said, "I figured you'd need those!"
All this time, we waited and waited. There was a delay at the airport. All this time, and another delay! I was so tired of waiting... tense waiting... Finally, finally, came the call - "In the plane!" Finally! Happy tears... again.
But there was only a few minutes. The friend that would take me to the airport, quickly ran the visitor home and was coming back to take me to the airport. I hurriedly check my bag and grabbed my toothbrush and medicine. We sat down for a quick lunch, and I ate while making calls to everyone - they are on the plane! They are really coming home! There wasn't even enough time to finish the calls or instructions. Grabbing my bags and a sandwich, we headed out. I stopped to hug my two friends who were going to stay and finish getting everything cleaned up and ready for my mom. One of them would take my kids home with her and keep them until grandma arrived. So I left.
We stopped at the school to quickly hug the kids. They clung to me and cried - they wanted their daddy right away! But they let me go, and I promised to skype them with video as soon as we arrived to they could see and talk to their daddy as long as they wanted. But I cried leaving them... wishing I could be in two places at once...
Then we drove to the airport.
Friday, April 30, 2010
The friend who drove me to the airport brought along a young man he had been working with. This made my trip a little awkward as we were unable to talk about what was going on. Instead we talked only of superficial things in broken English. For me, it was only the beginning of learning to be silent when I so wanted to talk.
We arrived, bought a ticket, and then had time to waste. So we grabbed a bite of lunch. I did not want to eat, since I had already been fed lunch, but sat and visited with these two men. They would be hanging out in the airport for a few hours and waiting for my mother to arrive. I really did not want to sit and smile and visit. My heart was full, I was exhausted, and if anything, I wanted to talk about what was happening. Sitting just chatting about the weather was tiring. I watched the clock until I could gracefully leave.
I thanked my friend, and left a message for my mom and another friend they were picking up that day in the airport. Then I went through security. I was way too early - but my friend had been pretty nervous about finding a ticket, so we had come early. I wandered through a few stores thinking I might buy something, but things seemed so empty after the last few days. I walked to my gate and sat down.
Then I began to battle something else - tiredness. Five nights with little to no sleep were catching up, and now that the final worry had left and I knew they were safe, I just wanted to curl up and SLEEP! But I didn't dare. I did NOT want to miss this flight! So I walked, I watched people, and I tried to do some puzzles. But it was tough. I worked on Suduko, something I like doing, but the numbers jumped around on the page. I rubbed my eyes and tried to focus on them, but it only got worse. My vision blurred and went blank - a sea of fuzzy whiteness. I sat for several minutes not seeing anything. My heart thumped and my mind raced through the possibilities of what it could be. Part of my rational mind was telling me that it was just stress, but I had never seen stress do this! It was lonely and frightening to sit there struggling to see. I so wanted to call for help, but then thought that if I do, they will never let me get on this plane! So I sat silent, not seeing, just trying to take slow deep breaths to calm down.
I closed my eyes, but my mind kept racing. After a few more minutes of breathing slowly and purposefully, I opened them again, and could see a little, but still very blurry and vague. I walked to the bathroom and checked to see if there was something in my eyes, but nothing was there. I was too nervous to sit down again, so began to walk laps around the terminal. I still had an hour to kill before they would load that plane.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
The line seemed to go on forever. People had packed too many and too big carry-ons and there was a lot of arguments and frustration. I paced and watched. At last, we were allowed to board. I quickly found my seat. I had chosen the exit aisle so I could be off that plane as fast as I could. I sat and tried to focus again on my Suduko, but I sat next to a very talkative couple. They were traveling because of an illness in one of their parents - headed back to take care of them. So we talked, and I expressed sympathy for their plight. Then she turned to me with a smile and asked why I was flying.
"umm... I'm going to meet my husband." It was all I could think of just then.
She continued to talk. Apparently, she hated flying and it made her really nervous. So we talked. It is the best thing to do to distract a nervous flier anyway. When the plane was loaded, the flight attendant joined us, sitting opposite us in her seat. She also expressed sympathy for the couple seated with me. Then she looked at me and looked puzzled. She asked why I am traveling, and I told her to meet my husband. Then she gave me a puzzled look and asked if I was nervous about flying, too. I smiled and said that I wasn't really. So she asked what was wrong because I didn't look too good.
I took a deep breath, and thought. Then I told her that I was traveling to meet my husband who had been working, and something had gone wrong. That I had been awake for five nights trying to get information and help for my husband, and I am just exhausted and stressed, but fine. He is fine, and I am going to meet him. I told her that I would likely conk out and sleep if I could during the flight. She talked some more with me, asking if we had children and how they were doing. Then right after we got up in the air, and she was allowed to unbuckle, she looked over at me and said, "Wait right here. What you've been through with being a mom, too, has really touched me right here." and she laid her hand on her heart. "Let me go see if I can do something for you."
I heard her go to the aisle and whisper to the other flight attendants. The discussion grew a little heated, but then she came back. She shrugged and said, "well, I tried to do better for you, but at least what I could get is better than here. Follow me. We'll get you somewhere where you can get a little more rest since it sounds like you need it!" And she took me into business class and gave me a row of three empty seats.
Ahhh.. nice! She returned again and again apologized for not being able to take me to the first class sleeper section like she wanted to, but I was thrilled with where I was. Then she left.
The flight attendant for business arrived with several blankets and pillows to help me get comfortable. She came back a second time and sat down beside me to say, "I've heard that you've been through some rough times recently. I just wanted to let you know if you need anything, to call me. Even if you just want someone to talk to, just call. I am here for you." Tears came to my eyes at the thoughtfulness and kindness of these flight attendants. It was a special gift. I told her that right now, I really could use a nap, but to please wake me for food since I haven't been eating of drinking well during the crisis. She promised she would, and I settled down to rest.
Interestingly, having grown up as a MK who traveled quite often, I can sleep well in things that move - as long as I can lie down. moving cars and trains lull me to sleep and feel familiar. So, I slept well - better there than I had since the troubles began. A few hours into the flight, she woke me to feed me, and I ate most of a meal, drank more tea, and settled back down to sleep.
But I could not go back to sleep. With the edge taken off the exhaustion again, my mind began to race. How was my husband? Where was he? How long till I saw him? Was he really ok? How had he coped with it all? How much longer? Was he hurt and not telling me? I lay, at least letting my body rest while my mind raced.
After the next time that we were given food and drink, I sat up. By then, I could see from the maps that we were getting closer and closer. I sat bolt upright then, staring at the map, willing that little white plane to move faster. I sat there, so aware that very soon I would get to see him, get to hold him... and the tears began to fall. I sat silently crying - no sobbing or noise, just tears falling rapidly one after the other down my cheeks.
When at last I ran out of tears, I asked for a drink. I was very thirsty! Then I looked down at myself. I had ran out of the house not even aware of what I was wearing. I looked down and saw it was a shirt I had on for two days and it was now wet where the tears had landed. It was time to think about landing. So I quickly retrieved my bags and grabbed a spare shirt (I always pack a spare after I once dumped a whole glass of coke on my during a sudden turbulence and had nothing to change into!). Quickly, I changed in the bathroom, and attempted some makeup on my face. I knew better than to put anything on my eyes - I was likely to cry again. Then I laughed - it probably didn't matter what I looked like, my husband was going to be glad to see me!
I returned to my seat and began to shiver. My teeth chattered and I convulsively shook, all while smiling and crying simultaneously. The flight attendant who had moved me came back to give me a quick hug and ask if I had slept. I thanked her with all my heart, and she smiled and wished me luck.
The plane landed, and the seatbelt sign went off. The flight attendants held back the other passengers and got me to the door first. They hugged me again and smiled. They waited the eternity with me until the door was opened, and waved goodbye as I ran off the plane and into the airport. The last I heard from them was them calling, "Good luck, run fast! Give him greetings!" And I ran.
This airline won my loyalty that day - I have never been so kindly treated on a plane. Not only were they kind and caring of my physical needs, they cared about how I was doing. And when I walked off that plane, they had tears in their eyes saying good bye to me!
But above all, it was God's gift to me - their kindness. I think without it, I would have been at risk of collapsing on that plane. My body and my emotions were at their very end, but this kindness gave me the energy I needed to make it to the reunion in one piece.
Monday, May 3, 2010
When I should have followed signs!
In the baggage claim is where I made my one mistake. Since I had no bags, I just headed for the nearest exit out. Then I looked around, puzzled that no one was there. My plane was arriving an hour after theirs, so they should have been there.
Maybe theirs was late. How fun that would be! I had been disappointed that I wouldn't be there to meet theirs, and ours had come in half an hour early, so there was hope. I scanned the boards for where their came in, and ran there. It was empty.
I ran back to where I came out, my eyes scanning people looking for two that I know - well, two and the family of one. I shouldn't miss them.
But they were nowhere.
I walked back to their gate. Nothing. Then back to where I came out. Nothing.
My lip began to tremble and tears pooled in my eyes. Where were they? Even if they weren't here, the other family would be here... they would be waiting for me at least. But nothing.
Right before I gave in and let the tears fall, I looked up once more to see where my gate was.... ah! I had just come out the closest gate, but not the "official" one for my flight. So I once more began to run towards that gate.
Then I saw him.... standing with his back to me watching my gate. His shoulders had slumped a little. People had stopped coming out of the gate, and he still stood there waiting. My heart leaped, and I giggled.
Then quickly, but very quietly, I snuck up behind him and kissed him on the back of his neck.
Monday, May 3, 2010
He jumped. And I laughed! I love making him jump. He hadn't expected me to sneak up behind him.
We laughed and hugged. Ahh... finally together. Talking all at once - how did you get here? Where were you? How long have you been here? All these questions that really didn't matter!
Then to look around me and see friends. The family of the other man are friends of mine. I had just been to visit them just two weeks before and said goodbye not expecting to see them again for a few years. How fun to see them there! I hugged them, then my husband again - happy.
But... I am like Thomas. I knew the other one was with him, but I couldn't see him. Where is he? I need to see, to hug him and his wife, too. So we went to where they were. I don't think until then did I finally let out that last bit of held in breath... they are here. Safe. With us. It's over.
The end of the time of crisis, and the beginning of recovery time. I just didn't know a few things going into the recovery that I wish I had been able to know. I didn't take in to consideration what raw nerves and cumulative stress on a large amount of people spread over a few locations will do. That was to show itself over the next weeks. But for now, I was happy. Content. Nothing missing. Nothing broken.
We enjoyed a family reunion. Not our family, but one I love. Such a fun thing to see them (well most - one had to leave) all together. I met them first as teenagers.... now they are all grown up with their own kids. We went to their house and drank tea and talked and talked. Tears, laughter, hugs, smiles, stories....
As the day wore on, they slowly left to return home. The men showered - which was a definite improvement! - and we all headed off to sleep for an hour or two. Curled up in my husband's arms, I slept solidly for one hour. That hour was the last dreamless sleep I had for weeks. Then the nightmares began - every time I closed my eyes, I was in another crisis, and I woke with my heart pounding and my body sweating. But that was later.
Right then, I was as happy as I had ever been in my life.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
A Journey Without A Map
But time does not heal all wounds. Healing is a journey. And no one gave us the map.
I thought someone would. I had left that job - writing the map - in someone else's hands thinking they knew how to do it. That, I discovered later, was my first mistake. Maybe this person would have been capable... maybe, I don't know.... but they were one of those involved in the situation. And there were complications we didn't know about. Lesson one - never leave drawing maps to those lost in the maze.
So things didn't go well. My reaction to that was to sit back and watch - how will they do it? Obviously they know more than me, so I watched. That wasn't likely the best decision. But, I was tired of pushing and fighting... ready to let someone else know what to do.
Only, they didn't.
I am a map person. Even when we are traveling where I know, I still love the map. I follow it, study it, and count off landmarks with it. I like to know where I am and where I am going. I have a strong built in sense of direction, but I still love maps! I had a sense that things were not going well - at least not what I needed. Not what my husband needed either, but I stayed silent. Lesson two - speak up. At least say, "Hey, I can't see where this map is headed. Doesn't make sense to me."
But I was tired. Very tired.
And then there were other factors - potholes in the road, damage so bad that a detour needed to be made. Who knows? Maybe the map would have worked if we didn't have the detour. We'll never know. But it came - unwanted trouble - and we needed to work around it.
But this whole next phase involved different groups of people in different places with different ideas. All with poor communication of all that. It became like a group of blindfolded people trying to work through a maze without talking to each other. And, inevitably, there were some bumps and bruises along the way.
I just didn't know to expect that. I was starting on this journey without a map.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Back to Normal?
Normal was how things were. But things have changed. So it will never go back to how it was. You can't move and then walk out of your house and expect to see things the same. You step outside that first morning after moving and watch. You see where the sun comes up, what flowers are to be seen, where people are, who lives here. You study and find out the paths to the nearest store, the bakery, and where the kids go to school. You learn about where you are until it becomes normal.
If you walked out of your house and turned the way you used to to go to the bakery, you might find yourself in the meat market. You wouldn't do that, of course, but it would be confusing if you did.
Life became confusing like that. We tried to navigate like we used to, but nothing was in its place. I felt constantly stunned... nothing is ok, nothing is normal... Now, weeks into this, I am settling in. There are some wonderful things in this new neighborhood - improvements over where we were before in our old "normal". There are other dangers, too. Different things that caused me stress than what caused me stress where we were before.
I deal with homesickness at times, too. Just wishing for the familiar. Other times, I laugh at the wonderful things in this new place.
I haven't gotten back to normal. I have gotten to normal again, I think. But not the old normal. And it was the very trying to "get back to normal" which caused me to stare blankly at walls in stunned confusion those first weeks.
After I finally accepted that I moved, then I could begin to unpack. To make myself at home here. To surround me with the familiar again. I'm settling in. It is a different normal than where we were, but I like this place. I might even get around to hanging pictures on the walls.
And at times, I still miss the old normal. That is ok, too. Time to grieve for what was lost. And time to explore the new.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Potholes with No Warning
So I will try, but hang in and pay attention. We have "team members" - those that are here with us. We have "over there people" - those that live over there. (simple, isn't it?). And we have a leader. He is not here nor there, but elsewhere.
Then of course, we have family - kids, parents, in-laws, extended family. We also still have friends - those near and far. And other participants in this. We can refer to them as the "other couple". Sounds more antagonistic than I feel! :)
So, all these people all had some part to play in these events. They all had some stake in it. It caused all of them some feelings. And the lack of free-flowing information made things confusing. So in the immediate aftermath, all these groups had things they wanted.
Unfortunately, people's wants and needs stepped on each other's toes.
We wanted some rest. We wanted to talk to each other. To walk. To drink tea. To sleep. To talk. To hear each other's stories. To be able to ask questions. To sit in silence just next to each other.
Team members wanted us home. Likely for the same reason. They also wanted to talk, to hear the story, to sit with us, to ask questions. To physically see us. They were very upset that we did not come directly home. They did not tell us this right off, so we were unaware of it these first days.
The "Over there people" were for the most part very wonderful to us. We heard only encouragement and concern from them. They did have their questions, but for the most part just encouraged us and let us recover. Of course efforts had to me made to communicate with them, and those efforts were made, but there was no great insistence that it be done immediately. There was one - there always is - who the leader said was wanting to know stuff right away. Other than that, the "Over There's" were the most gracious group. I'd love to gather them up and thank them - maybe make brownies or something for them all.
Our friends and relatives were wonderful. They waited, impatiently, but they waited for us to contact them. they respected our need to recover and refrained that first day from even sending e-mails.
Our kids needed us immediately. As soon as they arrived home from school, we spent an hour on Skype with them so they could see us and talk. They needed that. They also needed to see the other couple - to see, to believe. They missed us and cried, but they also laughed and giggled. We talked to them daily while we were gone.
It was the leader that was the biggest problem. For some reason, his need to know was urgent. Although he had talked to our group several times already and received all the information he needed for the short term, he still had an incessant need to ask more questions, even to ask the same ones over and over.
It doesn't work - a need for rest conflicting with an incessant need to ask questions. He was upset at us for choosing to meet where we were. It irritated him. This and the incessant need to talk ran headlong into our need for rest.
This is where being so spread out is difficult. I honestly try to believe that if he had seen the faces of the four of us that day, he would not have kept calling and calling. But he did not have that hint. He would have had to put himself in our shoes and think about what we needed just then. But he didn't. He also did not stop to look at time zones and think about what people who had been awake for five nights might want to do at midnight.... ie. SLEEP!
That caused conflict the very first day. Conflict, which because we had emotionally raw, totally exhausted people, went real ugly real fast.
The beauty, the peace, the unbridled happiness was gone. In its place was just raw sore nerves.
A pothole in the path... a huge, glaring pothole that no one prepared us for.
Who was at fault? All of us to some degree.
If I hadn't been so tired.....
If he hadn't called so often and so late....
If he hadn't said that.....
If he hadn't said this....
If she didn't do that....
If I didn't do that.....
Lots of "ifs", but we can't live in "ifs". We can simply go on.
But I cried long into the night. And when I woke up from nightmares during the night, I cried some more. A lonely cry - because when we hit the pothole, we took different detours around it. Never again was there the quiet joy of four people walking a path together.
I cried and cried. The first night of what should have been a happy time ruined by conflict. I didn't see it coming. I think what hit me so often during the journey to normal was this same thing.... I didn't see things coming. I think I was living with a "happily ever after" mentality. You know, story ends and everyone lives happily ever after. Someone needs to erase all those from story books! It would be normal to expect conflict, fights, stress, misunderstanding, and criticism after a crisis. Just no one was there to tell us that and no one was there who was not IN the situation to help us get out of it all.
So again, for the sixth night in a row, I sobbed myself to sleep curled in a ball. Sleep came only in fits, and every time my eyes closed, dreams started. I woke up at least ten times from ten different nightmares. And every time I woke, I cried myself to sleep again.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
The Limping Bird
We chose to take a day off. To just go do something. It wasn't my type of thing to do. I mean, it was fun enough, and I enjoyed it, but it took us to a place full of people. My mind is too busy in crowds of people and I can only take it for a limited amount of time. When I am emotional or stressed, I do a lot better with nature and space than crowds. I like to walk, to sit by lakes and throw in stones, to climb hills, to climb trees and sit blowing in the wind. Crowds of people irritate me.
So while I did enjoy parts of the day, as it wore on, I got more and more agitated. I began to feel like I would go nuts and hit someone or snap at them for no reason. All I wanted to do was hide. Finally, with no peace around me, I will let myself walk away in my mind from all that is happening around me and just daydream for awhile. That helped me a little, but it is not an answer. I sat on the ride home with something covering my head, looking asleep. It gave me a brief time to get away from people.
But when you have four people and four different needs, you have to watch others and see what they need. Because of the conflict, I went into watching mode. Watch and be silent and see when the stress levels will go down. It was a day I survived. Some brief parts of it, I enjoyed, but survived was about all I would say.
While we were in the crowds of people, we waited for others to catch up at the end of the day. We sat on a cement block and were still. The pigeons flew around searching for any crumbs left and vendors packed their carts. My eyes followed the birds - something live and moving. One pigeon hobbled up with an odd gait. When he got closer, I saw what was wrong - his feet were missing. He had one toe on half of one foot, and the other foot was gone altogether. He hobbled around on the swollen stumps of what was left.
I wondered what happened to the poor bird. Did he land on a hot wire exposed somewhere? Had he been caught in some trap and managed to get free? I watched his tortured limp around the sidewalks wishing I had some way to help him. Even a piece of old bread that I could feed him would have been nice. But I had nothing. No way to ease his pain. No way to make his suffering easier. I could only sit and watch.
How odd, I thought, too, for a bird with wings to be stumbling around at a limp. If only he would stretch out his wings, he could move so much more freely. But he didn't. He limped around looking for crumbs.
I felt like that bird that day. Knowing I have wings, but unable to use them. The pothole had damaged my feet, hurt me, and I was unable to open my wings to fly. So I stumbled through the next days limping.
I was so often confused. What was happening was not what I expected to happen. It was not what I thought should be happening. And I was with people who knew better than I did, so I was following, but... but... where did this path lead? It seemed to be going in circles. Endless circles.
I wanted to talk, to listen, to hear. And no one was talking. Silence and more conversation about the weather. I watched and waited, waiting to be told when it was ok to talk. Not today. Today, we are supposed to relax.
How can I relax when I can't talk?! I do not work like that. So the frustration began to build. Frustrated, tired, irritated at crowds, feeling like a shaken bottle with a tight cork, I sat down with everyone that evening right before bed. Someone wanted to sit quietly and pray and thank God for all that went well.
Not that I wasn't thankful. I was. More than I could say. But, I needed to talk, to cry, to be able to feel what I had not had time to feel during the whole time. Here and there the first day or so, we had heard bits of the men's story, but little at all of the women's. I couldn't pray. If I took the cork out then, I would explode. And no one could understand that.
So I cried myself to sleep one more night. Asking God why I even bothered to come over here - everything is awful and I could have at least stayed with my kids and comforted them. Now there is no comfort - not for them and not for me.
Don't ask me to smile when you don't let me cry first. Joy comes in the morning after the tears, not pasted on a night of unshed tears.
And again, my sleep was broken by nightmares, awful horrible nightmares. At least this night when the nightmares hit, I could reach out and wrap my arms around my husband. He wasn't ready to talk yet or listen, but he did wrap his arms around me and hold me in the night. Poor man - he is always hot, and I am always cold. During the first weeks after the crisis, I could never get warm. It was as if my entire heating system shut down, and I shivered constantly. He held me in the night when my teeth chattered from the cold and the nightmares, but that was about all he was able to do for me then. He had his own stress to overcome.
This journey was a lot harder than I ever expected it to be!
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Holding My Breath
The morning started well, and I listened with interest, putting pieces of the story together. Very interesting to me at times the way things lined up. I heard what was happening there, and I knew what was happening where I was at the same time. I was looking forward to sharing that. To hearing what was happening with the other wife, too. Sometimes amazed at when God pulled me out to just sit in silence before Him, praying without words. Other times interested to hear what thoughts had been in their heads knowing what discussions we had been having without them.
It was a good morning, and I looked forward to the afternoon, but one shadow of worry began to form in my head.... time. It was already late, and we were not progressing very far on this path.... was it really true that this was the only day a person joined us to help us talk through it? If so, we aren't going to get through the story. My heart began a slow, steady thump of anticipation of what was coming. You know, that feeling when you have waited so long for something only to get close and realize that most likely there won't be enough for you.
So it ended up a day where I got to hear the story, which I greatly enjoyed. A relief to have it all put in order, to have questions answered, to hear.
But not a day where I got to talk.
We had perhaps an hour or two where we would all get to talk, and a question was asked, "What was the hardest part of all this for you?" I took a deep breath. I would not get to tell my story, but I would at least get to tell the hardest thing for me. I could handle that. The question went around the room, but right before it got to me, the questioner changed the question to something totally different. "How do you think you knew before it happened that it would? Do you think God told you?"
The effect was like popping me with a pin! I had waited all day. Then I had waited for the question to circle the room, hanging on to my one chance to finally share how I felt.... and pop! Gone. Instead, I was questioned on how I knew something....
I struggled not to cry for a few moments. Why? Why?
But she was insistent. She wanted to know how I knew that. Now, besides my annoyance with her for stealing my long-waited chance to share, I was irritated. Don't ask me that! What do you want me to say? "God told me." Well, I don't say that. Because the punishment for a prophet who wasn't 100% on his prophesies in the Old Testament is pretty severe. I might think God said something, but I will be much more likely to say, "I think God is telling me this...." than I am to say, "God said...". The only 100% time I can say "God said..." is when I am reading the Bible, so I was not about to say what she wanted to hear.
So I told her I think God was telling me that. But she wanted to know HOW I thought that! How??!! Yeah, if I could tell you exactly, scientifically HOW we know God talks, I could write a book! How do you know God talks to you? You sit with Him enough to recognize His voice, that is all.
Eventually, she got tired of questioning me on that and went on to something else. I sat still, struggling not to cry. I had so wanted to talk.... to at the very least share how I felt at the hardest thing I went through. But I didn't get to. So tears pooled in my eyes, and I struggled to keep my attention and ears on what others were saying. But the sound effect of the hammer hammering that cork in tighter and tighter on the shaken up bottle was ringing too loudly in my ears.
The day was like holding your breath and swimming to the surface only to break into the light and realize you are only in another layer of water.
So we went home again. That was the end of our time meeting to talk. I went home feeling lighter because I had at least heard the story. And feeling so alone... as if I had been kicked out into the dark into the cold, swirling mists. If only I could make it through the day without crying.... If only I could sit down and actually cry.... If only I could talk....
I felt so invisible.
If that had not been enough for the day, there came one more thing at the end, late at the end of the day that hurt. The person who did it had no idea how much it hurt or how much it was not needed. Someone told me they could not listen to me then as they would not get in a place inbetween people. That hurt... because the very reason I was sitting in unshed tears in silence is that I would not let that happen myself. So it hurt. And then people went to bed, and I sat in silence in darkening room crying silently to God.
"You are the only One I can talk to right now. The only One who even sees me right now, and I am hurting so much.... and no one knows. I just want to talk. I just want to talk. I just want to talk. And no one has time to listen right now."
But in the silence, came a quiet reply. "I am listening."
I told God I don't feel like putting it into a prayer. I don't know how you "pray" a story. It wasn't a prayer - it was just that I wanted to tell my story. So I sat in that dark room pretending what was really real - that God was sitting there listening to me. I felt strange telling Him a story He already knew, but it was ok. It wasn't that He needed to hear it. It was that I needed to tell it. I told Him from the beginning - right from the beginning. And because it was God who already knew, I told Him all the parts of it... even the ones that confused me or embarrassed me. The things that made me laugh. The things that made me cry. I sat for over an hour talking quietly.
It was good. To just be able to talk and to be heard - because I have no doubt that I was heard that night, perhaps much better than any human could even hear.
But it hurt. The emptiness of the room mocking me. Is there no one that has enough time for me?
And again, late at night, I curled up in my bed and sobbed myself into a sleep punctuated by nightmares. Tonight's nightmare was the worst and took me most of the next day to recover from emotionally.
It was a nightmare about someone I know and like, a friend from church, my boss where I work a few days a week. My husband did something minor wrong at work... (he doesn't work there - but dreams are dreams!)... and had been sentenced to twenty years with no chance of parole... on only an accusation. As they were leading him away, the judge said, "Only she (my boss) can release him of this sentence if she has mercy on him.", but she sat there with a cold face and shook her head then walked away down the hall. My kids clung to my legs with heartbreaking cries as I screamed after her, "Please! please! At least think of the kids! Just look in their faces, please!" But she walked away without looking back.
I woke up screaming and sobbing again. I screamed so loudly that I had woken my husband. He's the one who can sleep through a teething baby! He wrapped his arms around me one more time and listened as I sobbed out my nightmare and buried my face in his skin. Then his grip slackened as he drifted back off to sleep. I dozed fitfully in and out of sleep, jerking awake often with my heart pounding.
It took a few days before I was able to shake off most of the feelings of that dream. It lingered like a cold shadow on a sunny day.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Balancing a Bucketful of Tears
It was just going to be a few days with friends. A chance to relax a little. So I relaxed some and tried to relax.
It was hard, though. I even said that I feel like I am carrying a bucket of un-cried tears with me everywhere. As if I was balancing that bucket of tears on my head, trying to walk carefully and not spill.
(I can carry a bucket on my head and walk, but usually not of liquid, just something like laundry or food. Sometimes, I do it here - walking down the school hallway with something balanced on my head. It never fails to astound my daughter's class!)
So we rested that day. As much as you can rest with a heart full of tears. This day was one of the better days, all in all. We set out to wear ourselves out physically. To make it a short story - we did!
But even this day was interrupted on by a person who kept calling. Every day had been, and with every ring of the telephone, the atmosphere tensed. There was still the lingering feelings from that first night, and different people reacted differently to this need to communicate. Some did it in short sections. Others refused to completely and were upset about it. There was disagreements in the ranks about how this should be done, and that was again a hanging tenseness on all this time which continued for several days. Remnants of the pothole. That stress which had sent us all on different detours kept us apart during the journey. At times, we would bump into each other and walk together for some time, and then our paths would separate again. It was a really awkward thing, and I wished that it had never happened - that this person had never caused this pothole... but it had, and it continued to cast its shadow over the whole journey to normal.
All in all, though, it was a nice day. We got away from crowds and spent time out in nature. It was a day I would have absolutely loved if I wasn't trying to balance this bucket of tears. At times, I wanted to just pull away from people, to stop trying to smile and enjoy - to just sit. Other times, I just wanted to scream at people - wake up! What are we doing?! Are you never going to have time to listen? To just walk away and stop pretending I was getting better. But my husband needed me, too. I couldn't.
Frustration began to be my close companion during this time. Intense frustration. Being silenced when I needed to speak. I wanted to be home, to at least be where I could talk to a friend... The pothole had caused someone to say that we should not be on our computers... not talking.... So that effectively cut me off from other support systems I might have gone too. It was a very lonely time in a place where I should not be lonely.
In the afternoon, I did get some time to talk with my husband. To hear what he needed. To talk about hitting that pothole - and share why we hit it so hard. To repair the damage between him and me. From that point on in this journey, we were able to work together. We still had our different journeys. We had to walk our own paths, but we began to learn how to tell each other what we needed and we tried to help each other when we could. He was not yet able to listen to me, but at least we were able to communicate well and try to work together.
The day ended with laughter and games - which was fun. Some outlets for frustration in physical activity (although an old injury acting up caused more frustration at the pain involved in physical activity!). Some outlet for it in playing games. I am extremely competitive, but also have a great sense of humor and really don't care if I win - only if we played hard, so I love playing games.
That evening, however, two things happened that were good. Someone stopped to pray for me. That helped. And I wrote two things. The first was a letter to someone telling them that the phone call late that first night was not necessary and that I don't want calls so late. That is our family time - time for my husband and me. Then I decided I don't care - I am going to start to write, and I opened up my blog.
I am a words person.... if I can't talk, then I at least need to write! So I wrote my first blog post during that time - "When Silence is Deafening." Ah, it felt so good to finally have a voice again!!
Then I went to bed and my husband and I sat talking. He wanted to leave - to go to his family. He gave me the choice to come with him or stay. I did not feel welcome where I was and knew that I needed to appear at my in-laws. It would be a stressful time, but they needed to see both of us. My husband would need the back up. He would need me beside him smiling and talking.
I just am not a smile pretty and talk nice type of person. I love people, but I quickly tire of mindless talk about nothing. And his family, while great people, know only what they know. So I was in for days of shopping, drinking tea, admiring decorations, and discussing vacations and recipes. Not what I needed right then - but my husband needed me to do it. So we planned when we would leave. After church the next day, we would pack and go. It was good to begin to talk to him, to at least find out where his journey was headed and see how I could help him.
We curled up together to sleep, and it wasn't until he rolled over and began to gently snore that the tears seeped quietly out of my eyes. We're leaving. Leaving without ever really having been here. And I cried.
I had faced so much criticism for going there; criticism that we would continue to face for weeks to come, and it turned out this way. A broken thing... as if someone took it and dropped it, and it broke into pieces. A broken treasure - not of any use... not beautiful. I cried quietly that night and slept fitfully. Thankful at least not to sleep deeply enough to go into the nightmares, but so restless and exhausted.
I watched the moon through the trees out of the window, quietly lying in my bed thinking... I didn't want to leave. I didn't want to stay, either. I just was sad. Very sad. Confused. Hurt. Frustrated. But above all else, sad. And it was going to end like this... sad.
Then the sky began to change to that hue that signals the sun's arrival will be soon, and I rolled over to sleep for an hour or two.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Packed up in boxes... my photos, my life, my "special things", and at times my emotions...
Sunday morning dawned and it was time to begin packing. Just as we gathered our clothes and stuff and began to put them in our suitcase early that morning, I also began to pack up my feelings.... all that had happened and that I felt during this whole crisis situation, unceremoniously dumped into boxes... ready to be hidden under a pretty tablecloth. Maybe one day, I would get around to sorting them out...
But that morning, I checked my e-mail. Four comments from my blog and two letters from friends. One was from a friend who knows what is going on, who has known me for years... Reading through her letter, tears began to fall. It was as if she had reached right through the computer and gave me a hug and held me.
To be seen. Likely one of the most beautiful of words. To be seen. Not to be invisible. To have someone say, "I am ready to listen. I see you." The words she used - "I know you and your husband must have taken a battering." I smiled - someone had given my feelings words, validating me, what I went through. Words I could see, visualize, hold on to, describe with... A battering. Yes, that is it!
Six letters that brought a smile to my face and began to warm me up from the paralyzing cold of silence.
And one letter - and answer to the one I had written yesterday. To be honest, I had really expected a "oops! I didn't think about the time and what your days had been like. I'm sorry." Then we would have gone on in the relationship... would have just been a reminder to check your time zones and to allow family time. But it wasn't. It was a letter that was really offended - "What did I do wrong? There was absolutely nothing wrong with what I did!" Wrong? maybe not - debatable... Insensitive? yes, definitely! The letter shocked me. Stunned me. Not at all the response I expected. Not even close.
But a six to one ratio is pretty good, and I went to church feeling loved and cared for for the first time in many days. Feeling bewildered by the one response... angry - again our "use" is valued much more than our "being" by this person. But generally happy... so loved especially by this one who wrote in!
Church was great. Thinking back to a week before when I stood with my kids and sang thinking we might never see their daddy and now I sat between these two. Couldn't sing today since it was in a language that I don't know well enough to sing - but I do know well enough to know what is being sung. So we stood and smiled. Happy to be together. To look to either side of me and shake my head in the sheer wonder of all that went on since last week.
I tried to follow the sermon, but got tired. My mind really wasn't in it, so I began to write. The anger from the one letter that morning came in my mind. I turned the situation over and over in my mind. It was so not right. On many fronts it was so not right. Why was it not a simple thing for this person to understand that it was insensitive to insist on phoning (again!) at almost midnight our first night together? A simple, "I'm sorry. I didn't think about what you needed right then." would have been all that was needed to fix it. I wrinkled my forehead in total confusion - why was he so adamant about defending that? It rubbed the hurt in. It was not enough to do it - but to insist it was right was baffling!
But, in the end, it comes back to the basics. God loves this man - even with his faults. Just like He loves me even with mine. I picked up my journal and began to write:
I'm upset, hurt, angry. This man's insensitivity to common decency hurts me.
But in the middle of all that, there is an ache. Besides living my life as one of many of God's children, I live my life in front of God. He is not pleased when His children fight. Even though I have valid case, even though he did wrong, even though he is so blind that he ain't got a clue what he did, what he stole from me.... I still live my life in front of God. God still calls to me, "Child?"
"Child, you know I love him."
I know, but he hurt me! He hurt me when I was hurt. He stole from me what can not be given back, a precious thing and broke it.
And it hurts!
"I know. But I love him."
But I don't want to!"
Gently, but firmly, "He is mine, and I love him."
My hear roars within me, "No! Don't make me do this!" But God sits quietly. Waiting.
Then, quieter, "Ah, God, no. Please don't ask this, not now. You see what he did. Don't ask me. Heal my heart first; I'm hurting. I need You." But God sits quietly waiting.
I want to cry, to settle down and cry at what God asks of me. Even harder to give forgiveness where it is not asked, where even there is no awareness of wrongdoing. But God sits quietly. We've walked this path before, and He knows I know the way.
So I have a choice. As a crying child of a Father with a foolish and ignorant sibling who has no idea of the value of what he broke, I sob and throw myself on my Father knowing that He knows how precious it was to me. And he destroyed it, and he doesn't care one bit! Ah, God, if only he knew and cared a little about what he did, it would make the forgiveness more easy. I want to be able to stand and give a victim impact statement. But God sits quietly.
So I chose to turn my eyes up. No choice because I value my Father's approval most. The gaping hole still raw, but I turn my eyes up. Ok, ok, I will chose.
(It will be a choice, not a feeling, but a choice of will... forgiveness often is.)
So I chose to forgive him for his stupid and careless act of stealing that evening, of ruining the peace and joy. I chose to do this knowing full well that he doesn't know or care about what he has done, feels no remorse or compassion at all. Choosing to forgive does not mean that I have surrendered my rights to set limits or to lodge a complaint aimed at correction of behavior. These I will still do! But I chose to forgive - to put down the right to demand payment and hold grudges. Choosing to accept that God loves him as He loves me, despite his faults. It is not an acceptance of those faults, but a setting down of my anger for an unjust offense and choosing to accept that God loves him.
I am a mother of a few children. I often am the one to sit and try to negotiate conflicts - hearing the pain, hearing the protests, working towards a solution. I often try to look at situations from the point of view as God being the Father of us all. We are siblings, brothers and sisters... Sometimes when my children are really offended and can't calm down their anger, after I listen to their pain, I ask them, "Well, he did do something wrong, and I understand that you are hurt. What do you think we should do to him because he hurt you? Should we kill him?" Their eyes widen and often they giggle, and they exclaim, "no!". So I smile and say, "Then your other option is to forgive them." There is no in-between. It is either hate which kills or love which forgives and chooses to love and give grace. Put that way, so far, my kids have always opted to forgive! I don't see myself as having any other option, either.
But then I turn to the offender privately, away from the offended, and talk about what they did. Time for correction, for seeing what effect his actions had on his brother. Time for correction and repentance. Why do I rarely do that in front of the offended? It isn't helpful, and it often feeds the anger of the offended. In the same way, I need to let God, the Father, do His correcting of His son privately. I need to trust that He will do it.
Forgiveness - involves both a setting down of the right to hold anger and the relinquishing the correction needed into the hands of One who is much more capable of it than I am. It is not that I am not worth standing up for. It is that there is someone much more capable of doing that than I am. Handing over the offense into His hands. This means learning to trust that He will - a struggle for some of us.
So, with that settled, the day was brighter. I had got through the crisis by knowing what to carry and what to delegate - this was something to delegate to God! But that afternoon, I responded to the letter with an apology for my tone in the first one. I said that while I still stand by what I said, I apologize for how I said it. I should have been gentler. He was also under stress, and I did not make allowance for that. He was close to my husband also, and this event must have also been hard for him, so I should have been gentle and remembered he was under stress, too. I never heard back from him after that letter.
I reread the good letters, and wrote a letter back to my friend. Just having her there made me feel less alone, less invisible.
But the day was a day for packing. We packed up our suitcases, and I packed up my emotions - as unsorted, unspoken, and unfelt as they were, and shut the lid on their box. It was time to go see family.
So we did. We met the family at a relative's and spent the day eating, laughing, dancing, and listening to music. With my emotions mostly packed up, I did well. I smiled, talked, smiled some more, respected my elders appropriately, negotiated the rocky ground of a large family get-together well. Pleasing everyone.
The problem is that I am not so good at packing up my emotions as I used to be. And they rumbled and strained at the lid of their box, making their presence known. When it was too much, I would sneak away briefly from the crowd... needing the facilities, needing some fresh air because it was too hot, wanting to help with dishes... all these are good excuses for a few minutes of quietness.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Learning to Listen
And here, I began to sleep. My sleep was still filled with nightmares, and I woke often with my heart thudding in my chest, but I would drift back into sleep again. I covered myself with heavy blankets which kept me warm and gave me a sense of security and slept. I slept at least ten hours every night and napped in the day. That was a welcome break.
During the whole time, the event was rarely mentioned. Once there was a fight about it.... which saddened me. People fighting because they had strong emotions and needed to be heard, but without being heard, they began to yell at each other. So quietly, over the next few days, I tried to listen to the few I could. My sister-in-law was furious, but when I got her alone and acknowledged that she had been terrified, she began to cry. She told me how frightened she had felt and now how that fear carried over into all sorts of things... what if she had an accident on the road and her baby was killed? What if they got some terrible disease? These things happen like lightening striking, and what can you do?!
How do you answer someone who has no God? She no hope, nothing. I shared with her again how we prayed and God answered, and told her I will pray for her. Then I asked her about her friend's baby - the one that looked like it would be completely brain damaged because of the trauma at birth. Her face brightened and she shook her head in confusion as she said, "He is actually doing well! It is amazing, but he is making eye contact and holding up his head and eating like any normal baby. I mean, he may still have some learning problems in school, but he seems pretty normal!" My heart did a little dance inside me (Thank-you God!) and I told her I had asked my friends to pray and we had been praying for this little boy.
That was all we had together - just a few minutes in the kitchen stirring pots, but it was something.
I had a few minutes with my mother-in-law. Sitting drinking coffee while others shopped, I yawned. She smiled and asked if I was tired. I said that I was - that all the stress the last weeks has made me tired. She shuddered and said it was hard for her, too. That she couldn't eat for days when she found out and was so worried. We sat quietly and drank coffee together. After a silence, I told her that we can thank God that they are safe. She agreed. Then she smiled at me and said, "You should come again to visit. Just come alone sometime and spend a week here with me." I told her that it sounded wonderful, and maybe I would bring my daughter so we can just have a "girl's time". I hope to be able to do that next year.
Connecting in small moments with them. Hearing their stress. That was what made that time special. Being able to tell the few, "I see you."
I was also thankful for the hours of sleep I got. Sleep, food, and more sleep. With no way to unpack my emotions over the next month or so, I began to sleep a lot. I still tire easily today and sleep more than I normally would.
But, endless shopping, partying, crowds, and discussions on what to buy or cook tired me out. When it came time to go home, there were two ways for me to go. One was to go from here and the other was to return to where we had come from to go from there. My husband had to leave from here. It was the way his ticket worked. But I had a choice.
I chose to go back. It would mean one more afternoon with my friends - the other ones who had gone through this with us. It would also mean a few hours of a quiet trip all alone to where they were. Right then, I would love a few hours of solitude! So I said goodbye to the family and left early in the morning.
I carried only my small backpack. I love traveling light, and smile when I see others struggling with huge suitcases... oh, I've done it, too, on moves; but unless I am moving, I travel very light! Life is so easy without baggage! But I was still carrying invisible baggage - my bucketful of unshed tears and my box of packed up emotions.
The quiet ride was a chance to rest from holding this heavy load and trying to smile. At least alone, I could set them down by my feet and stare out the windows in quiet thought.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
We had to go to visit someone while we were in this area, so we planned that visit. It was a visit to one who is one of us, and we wondered how it would go, but it was a good time. There were tears and long talks. It was a time to be amazed at what God had done and to give thanks.
But then from there, we went to visit someone I had no idea would be in this area of the world! I had met him as a five year old boy on a totally different continent, but now he was married and here!! So we went to visit. What a wonderful day! We shared our lives, our work, and after lunch, we sat and my husband briefly told the story. It was a relief to sit together, to tell the story, and to hear the emotions. This time, not just the facts came out, but some emotion, and our new friends listened well. It was an unexpected treat in the middle of a journey with so much enforced silence to even be able to share the little we could in the two hours we spent with them! We left refreshed and feeling loved.
An unexpected blessing. This was a child who I had cared for and taught. He smiled when he saw me and said, "I honestly could not remember what you looked like, but I did remember what you taught us. I remembered this one song you taught us, too, and we sang it for years!" Then he began to sing for me,
Did you ever talk to God above?
Tell Him that you need a friend to love.
Pray in Jesus’ name believing
that God answers prayer.
Tell Him that you need a friend to love.
Pray in Jesus’ name believing
that God answers prayer.
Have you told Him all your cares and woes?
Ev’ry tiny little fear He knows.
You can know He’ll always hear
And He will answer prayer.
Ev’ry tiny little fear He knows.
You can know He’ll always hear
And He will answer prayer.
You can whisper in a crowd to Him.
You can cry when you’re alone to Him.
You don’t have to pray out loud to Him;
He knows your thoughts.
You can cry when you’re alone to Him.
You don’t have to pray out loud to Him;
He knows your thoughts.
On a lofty mountain peak, He’s there.
In a meadow by a stream, He’s there.
Anywhere on earth you go,
He’s been there from the start.
In a meadow by a stream, He’s there.
Anywhere on earth you go,
He’s been there from the start.
Find the answer in His Word; it’s true.
You’ll be strong because He walks with you.
By His faithfulness He’ll change you, too.
God answers prayer.
You’ll be strong because He walks with you.
By His faithfulness He’ll change you, too.
God answers prayer.
The very fact that I could teach them a song is a miracle in itself, since this is also the kid who looked up at me when I was trying to sing the ABC's to him and said, "Miss Ellie, I know that song... but to a different tune."! Yeah, thanks kid!
But as we drove that day and as I traveled the next, that song stuck in my head... one I used to teach children, and one I needed to hear then. Over and over it played in my head for the next several days, quietly calming me.
An unexpected treat.
Friday, May 7, 2010
When God Shows Up
That song that kept repeating in my head - one I had taught a small boy years ago, and one he sang to me now. A simple song, but one I loved when I taught small kids because it had a truth that I so needed to know. God is there, able to listen to me no matter what is going on around me. The simpleness of that truth sang over and over in my head as I traveled giving me peace again. It's ok. I'm here.
Things did not go like I thought they would. There was conflict where there was supposed to be rest. There was disturbing where there was supposed to be peace. There was sadness where there was supposed to be joy. There was silence where there was supposed to be talking. There was more conflict where there was supposed to be sharing feelings.
But God was there. He was. Still there. Unsurprised by it all. Not at all rocked, not at all taken off guard unable to meet in the situation. Still there.
When I turned and saw Him there, I calmed down. Still hurting, still raw, still sad, but calmer. He's here. He's listening to me.
I think later, if I had to go through something like this again, I hope I would remember to expect conflict. I wasn't ready for that. No one had told me it was normal. And there was no one outside of the situation able to handle that or able to help us see that it was normal and help us find the way back to the path.
But I traveled that day in relative peace. I napped and listened to my mp3 player. When I wasn't listening to that, this little song played over and over in my head.... "talk to God... tell Him you need a friend...pray... believe..." Slow warming of the isolation that I was wrapped in.
During the time we were with family, on the few times I had internet access, I was able to talk with two friends. Just being able to say what had happened, what was happening, was a relief. To be able to share even a little of how I was feeling. To take a breath and talk! And to get their letters back, to have someone hear me. It was a good thing.
So I traveled back with a lighter heart. Also knowing I was finally going home. I wanted to get home - missed my babies, missed my friends, missed "normal". What I came for, I did not get. But now I was going home - at home, things would be better... And I was heading back to see some friends for one afternoon. Hopefully a good time there.... maybe even we get to talk....
I love traveling when I can see things around me. I love traveling alone where I can look out and see the world. The day was full of watching early spring with its bright greenness and new baby animals. Watching people, but feeling absolutely no need to talk to them unless I wanted. Not needing to smile unless I felt like it. Not needing to pretend, not needing to care for anyone around me at all. Just rest and watch the world out of the windows.
Then I got back to my friend's house. It was a bright sunny day, if a little cold, and it was nice to sit outside and have some tea. But when I heard about their day, I realized that they had spent it talking... and they were tired of talking. Ok. So I did not open my box. Just leave it tied together and packed up. My two invisible pieces of baggage still traveling with me.
But it was still a good day. To have peace again, to go outside, to eat, play games, and pray. And it was here where we read the story of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. And here, quietly, God whispered to me... "look at how Jesus treated His disciples when He saw them again..." This is how I will treat you - with gentleness... And I began to smile... All that had gone on, and all that was going to go on next that thankfully I had no idea was coming, is not from God.... it is not how He would treat someone. I could trust Him, look to Him in all the confusion and hurt and silence... He treated His disciples with gentleness after what they had been through, and He would be a place of gentleness for me to run to.
So I rested, and began to smile. Still injured, still carrying a bucketful of unshed tears and a box of packed up feelings, but knowing that God will be gentle with me and I can trust Him in the middle of all the incapabilities and failing and mistakes of people around me.
I was going to need that knowledge more than I knew in the week to come.
This day ended in peace with prayer, and I was glad I had come - even if no one could still see what I was carrying. And I left more ready to face what was ahead.
Friday, May 7, 2010
No way! Now, most of the time, I am a mild enough person and usually don't mind too much being bumped if I am traveling alone - it is an adventure, right? Go with it and see what happens. But on the other end of that flight were four little kids who had sent their daddy off on a plane and then he didn't show when he was supposed to. They would not understand a delay. So I walked over to the desk, and told the lady - "Listen. I have to be on that plane! My kids have been through enough already." I briefly explained the situation to her. "If that plane lands and only one parent comes off again, and one is missing, they just are NOT going to be able to cope with that."
It took her all of thirty seconds to find me a seat! No where near my husband, but that was fine. We were ON a plane headed home!
This plane was crowded! And crowded with a huge group of wild teens with supervisors who cared little about how they acted. They jumped over seats, played hide-and-seek in the bathrooms, slamming the doors, yelled across the plane to each other, and threw things down the length of the plane. Over and over the flight attendants told them to quit, but they just laughed in their face. I was ready to recommend them to the "no-fly" list!
Then we finally arrived. My husband had been in a different section, so he appeared looking fresh and rested. I dragged myself out of the plane with my head spinning! We went through customs and immigration helping another lady who was traveling for the first time. We waited for our bag, and then headed to the doors.
We stepped out of the sliding doors and were mobbed by four little ones hurling their bodies into our arms! Laughing and crying, they hugged us and shoved pictures they had drawn for us in our faces. They pulled our arms and grabbed our stuff, trying to get us to come - they had hatched up some great surprise for us!
My mom was behind them, looking tired, but relieved. Trying not to cry also, so as not to ruin the kid's joy. Waiting to hug my husband herself - to finally hug him and know he is safe.
We had asked people not to phone those first days. We wanted time alone with our kids. It was so great to go home and curl up with the kids. After an hour or so, my husband stayed up with them since he had a quiet flight that he slept through, and I went to nap for an hour to recover from the wild teens on a plane!
We ate that evening all together, and my husband tucked his kids in bed. Finally, finally, our oldest one cried, sobbing on his daddy's shoulder.
We were home.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Then came the day that I thought, "Ok, I will just finish up and get through this section" and I wrote more posts all in one day. Oops - mistake! That evening, I struggled again. Too many feelings and too much invisible baggage pulled out at once. I struggled with my emotions again and had bad dreams that night. I think I felt a little like when we decided to clean up a closet and just pull everything out and then realize that it is too much to sort through before bedtime.... a little overwhelmed!
I'm ok now. And determined just to walk slowly through it, piece by piece. It works better than way.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
The Best Easter Yet
We had bought Easter outfits for our kids - something we hadn't done since they were small, but this year was a special year. We bought the boys matching shirts and my daughter a beautiful purple dress. The sun cooperated by shining and the day was as gorgeous as you could order. We stood in front of our house by some bushes to take a picture - you know, before someone spilled juice on their clothes! The neighbor - the one who had stopped by just to hug me when he had found out at midnight - was pulling out of his house to go to church, too. When we saw us all gathered together, he stopped his car right in the middle of the street and jumped out leaving the door open and the motor on, and came running across our yard. "You're back!" He grabbed my husband and hugged him. "Oh, I am so happy to see all of you together!"
Walking into church was such a wonderful thing. Together as a church, we had gone through this. They had cried with me, carried as much of by burden as they could carry, and prayed through the whole time. They had been with us through it all, and when we walked in that morning, there were a lot of tears! Happy tears, but tears. All the crying we had not done those first days, was cried now. My poor husband was passed around from person to person who simply hugged him and cried! We celebrated together, and when the pastor finally got us to gather for service, he had tears in his voice when he said that today we celebrate Easter when Jesus rose from the dead, and this Easter is a special one for us since we have one of our own back almost it seems from the dead, too. Now, we go to a fairly quiet church... we don't even clap during singing!.... but when he said that, the church erupted into applause! Tears, smiles, laughter, applause, and more tears. We were home. Back with our church family and it was over.
No one left church anywhere close to on time that day. Easter Sunday dinners waited while we all stood around drinking coffee for over an hour and talking. People sharing with each other, with us, and with our kids how they felt, what they prayed for, how they were affected. Several people simple stated "Before this, I really didn't stop to think about my priorities or what it really meant to follow Jesus, but I am really starting to think now." Two came and told us that now they are feeling called to missions, too. But mostly, we gathered in groups talking about what a wonderful thing God had done. Later, on the way home, my husband said, "Did you notice today? People were all talking, and they weren't in their usual groups of friends. They were outside their cliques and just talking with others." Old talking to young. Deaf and hearing struggling through communication. Those who are more elegant and those who live in rough neighborhoods hugging each other and sharing in the joy of the moment with each other. It was a beautiful day!
But for me, there was also a quiet sense of sadness in this day. As I stood to sing in the very same row where two weeks ago I struggled with the decision to praise God no matter what, I looked up and down the row and saw my whole family gathered. And I was silent for a moment. Why me? Here I stand where I never imagined I would stand. So blessed. Not that I am at all upset with the blessing - no, not at all!! But that it was a blessing that I was not guaranteed. I think as kids in Sunday School, we grow up and hear, "Don't worry. Pray. God will fix all your problems." and we almost get this "automatic answer" type of faith. We pray, and God gives us what we want, right?
But I knew that was not true. I knew it in a different sense than just knowing it. I had seen it. And my mind went back through the ones I have known and loved who didn't get their husbands or their wives back. Through those still missing somewhere unknown. Through those who suffered and died. I saw the faces of the children who lived without their fathers, without their parents.... and I paused. I am so blessed, so thankful... but there was a sadness and an awesomeness. This blessing I have that we all stand here - it was not a guaranteed blessing, not an automatic "of course" answer to prayer. It is an awesome blessing. And receiving it with thankfulness, I was also very aware of those who received different answers to just as much prayer.
Thinking of a friend of mine and her three children she raised alone.
Of another friend who was killed and left a wife and four little kids.
Of my friend recently who so greatly comforted me during the crisis. She is facing her second Easter alone with her four kids.
Of others whose families mark yet another year. Years that will go by without their children, never to have grandchildren, never to grow old and have their children to care for them.
People I've known. Others I have only heard about. Ones who walk a road that I was not asked to walk.
Thankfulness, praise, joy.... tempered with a deep sense of quietness, an awareness that others were not so blessed.
Why us, God? Why do we stand here so blessed, so joyful? A gift we did not deserve. Life when we did not expect it. And an awareness that this very joy we have, this very life we have now, is because Jesus Himself chose death for our sakes. We did stand facing a death penalty, but He chose to pay it for us.
We are all so blessed by that. Delivered from death. Just this Easter, we were twice so blessed.
It was a difficult day to describe - covering such a range of emotions. To be together, to be with our church family, to praise God, to worship, to remember His death and His victory, to remember others who paid the price also for others to hear, to be given our lives back again... Quietly to realize that as wonderful as it is to be given this life on this earth back, which it is! and we are SO grateful!, that it is still not something worth hanging on to with both hands. Only something to be laid back down again.
Our real life - where we are really alive, as God showed me up on the top of my "hill", is with Him. That is the only thing worth hanging on to with both hands. Life, real life, is eternal.
Monday, May 10, 2010
A Quiet Day
Towards evening, we all wanted to see someone, but weren't sure who. So, we decided to drop in at some friends. This was my friend who I had called the first day and the one who sat with me the day we got the call that he was safe and coming home. We knocked at their door and went in for coffee, cookies, cake, and a nice visit.
So good to be home, to be with people we know, to be doing normal things. We did not feel normal at all, but it was a slow step towards it. We felt stunned still. In shock maybe? Unable still to sort through our feelings. Feeling like watchers of our lives, not the ones in it ourselves. Confused. Able to talk about what had happened, but still as if it were a dream or an event that happened to someone else.
Sitting drinking coffee with these friends and talking did help. As we began to tell the story, we began to listen to the story, too. This did happen. It happened to us. And then we would sit and be quiet - unable yet to actually feel what had happened, but able to describe events. Beginning the journey. But we came again to these friend's house over the weeks to come. Just to sit and drink coffee and rest. With these ones, we were under no obligation to have answers or to have it all together.
The next day would hold the first of two team meetings, and we were looking forward to seeing the team again. Our team leader would be there, and we wondered how that would go, but we looked forward to seeing them and celebrating all that God had done together.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Time Heals All Things
I showed it to my husband and he smiled. Debrief four people AND plan new security all in ONE morning - oh, and that is AFTER fitting in two devotionals?! I envisioned the chipmunk speed talking and laughed. I knew what it would end up as - we would run out of time and be hurried along. It is what always happens.
It was almost noon before the devotionals were done. Then an unusual member of our team decided a impromptu funny skit would help relax everyone and help them talk about their feelings. So she rounded up people to do that. It was not funny and was really awkward, but we all tried to play along. It really made us cringe because it involved tying up my husband and beating him (yes, with something soft, but still!). It just wasn't funny. But this person is unique, and she thought it would help. Got to love her even with quirks... she did come through later with some wisdom! But as the weeks went on in the "recovery phase", I began to see that many people are like her. They all have ideas of what we need to be "fixed" or to "help us recover". So people did things, said things, acted in certain ways. Some thought we needed to just go on, so they did. They tried not to talk about it so we would not have to think about it. Others were sure we needed to tell them just then what we felt, so they pried. Others tried more 'unique" methods like this awkward drama.
I've thought about it since then wondering what did I really need. I am not sure I have a solid answer. I didn't know myself. But I needed someone who had time for me. Someone who asked me what I needed and had time to wait for me to think through the answer to that. I needed someone who wasn't looking for the exciting story, someone who wasn't trying to make it go away, someone who wasn't looking for results right then... but who had time to drink coffee with me and be quiet in case I thought of something I wanted to say.
I still have those things I think of that I want to say - even now - but who do I say them to? I can't pop up in a conversation about the end of school party and just say, "I remember thinking that when they kill him that at least the other one will get out and ... and... if there is anyone I want to be telling me about the last things we know about my husband, it is that one with him." But these thoughts still come up in my head... the quieter things... in the middle of the normal life going on around me, and it just doesn't work to drop those into conversations.
I needed someone to go for a walk with me, to sit and say nothing and throw stones into the pond with me just in case after thirty minutes that I think of something to say.... something I am not saying in my ten minutes I have with one or another when they want to hear the story.
They say time heals all things. I think it does... but not just time passing by, but people having time. If I've been hurt, have time for me. Time heals. You can't rush me through healing. You can't schedule when I open my heart. Time heals all things - give me your time.
After the drama, we began with the telling the story. The one who was able to walk away, but who saw and reported was there. We began with him, and it was good to hear his story. That cleared up questions I had about the time-line and why I was the last to hear and why it took four and a half hours before I was told. It was also good, as a group, and especially as the two of us, to look him in the eyes and thank him for walking away. We worried that he would second guess his decision, and feel guilty. One stayed and one walked away. But we needed the one who walked away in order to get help for those who could not. So we thanked him.
Then my husband told his story after lunch. It was a good time. All in all, once the awkwardness of the odd skit was gone, the day went well.
At least I thought it went well. Later I learned that when the wife of the one who got away shared how she felt and began to cry over how thankful she was to have her husband and how she realized how much he meant to her, that one person leaned over to her and said, "Get control of yourself, and quit being so emotional!" I did not hear that one since I was on the other side of the room. But I would have been tempted to snap back at that point. When, if not now, are you going to let this woman cry after all she's been through?
The day ended, and we would begin the next day. It was a pretty good day, and the group of us were happy to be together. I looked forward to the next day, and we went home and had a quiet evening with the kids.
We had no idea what would hit the next day, and no idea that much of the pain of this crisis had yet to hit us.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
They Never Came
The day started off with the other wife beginning to share. This was where she cried and someone told her not to be so emotional. I should have got a hint from that comment, but I did not hear it.
Then it was my turn to share. I did not get emotional and cry. That is just not me in a big group. But I shared what had gone on over here. I shared about the people who came to help, the calls I got, the help I received. I shared about what had been asked of me during the crisis and what that was like to do that job. I shared details that would help others who had to do that job another time. I shared how the experience went. Just telling the story.
After my turn, we had other members of the team share. They told their stories and a few of them said what was so wonderful during the whole event was how much they were there for each other and how much they supported each other through it all.
I quietly got up and walked out. I walked as far away as one could get in the building and shut the door of the small room I went to. I was shaking, in tears.
During the whole time, NO ONE from our team came to visit me. Not one.
Ok, to clarify, we belong to a small team, like tadpoles in a puddle. My husband is the leader of this puddle. We have a bigger team leader who is the leader of a few puddles. My husband is his assistant sort of, second down in charge of a few puddles. Then we are all part of a bigger organization. Someone from the bigger organization who lives near us did come to see me. They really helped me with anything I needed. I remain very grateful to them for their support during all this. Without them, I would not have survived as well as I did.
But they are not from our little puddle. From our team, no one came. Well, I take that back - we have a new comer, a new family. They haven't been here that long, and they were gone during the first half of the events. But as soon as they arrived back in town, they phoned. They came over on the last day, knocking on my door just to come be with me. I appreciated that so much.
But of the team that we have been a part of for seven years, no one came.
I could not sit there in that meeting and listen to them talk about how great it was to be a community and support each other during the crisis. I walked away before the tears started.
I felt so left out. Did they not even care? I have been there for them for every crisis, every emergency, every complication in their lives.... where were they?
So I shut the door in the back room and stood shaking, not yet able to cry. Hurt. Then the door opened again. It was my husband. He walked over, wrapped his arms around me, and held me tight. He let me sob against him, and understood what I said through all the sobbing and tears..."they never came! not once!". He understood all the past, the seven years, and what that meant to me.... they left me in pain and ignored me.
I still don't understand it at all. The afternoon later on showed some reasons, but the reasons were as hard to hear as the facts. I still don't understand.
But my husband held me for a long time while I cried and cried. Then he left to go have lunch. I stayed for awhile to calm down before going back into the room. On the way back in, I sat quietly at a spare computer reading mail, and our country director stopped by. He just stood quietly at the desk, and then said, "I know we placed a big burden on you in asking you to do what you did, and I wanted to tell you thank-you for doing it." I assured him that I hadn't minded the job and had thoroughly understood why it had to be handed to me. He stood quietly a little longer with me, and so I told him. "It is just that they are talking about how great it was to be there for each other during the event, and no one was there for me. No one, except the new guys, came to see me." He listened, but like me, had no answers. There really still are no answers for that. Just pain.
I think what was hard for me and what hurt almost as bad as the whole crisis were these things. It was when life slowed down enough to realize that no one came... that they abandoned me when I needed help. It was when we were criticized for our decision to be together with the "other couple" for a few days first. It was when we were disturbed that first night and criticized for not calming everyone else's fears and comforting their questions that first day or so. It was how our own treated us that hurt.
But this was a shadow compared to what was going to come after lunch. That was when the sharks attacked and the water ran red.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
I think this is by far the hardest blog post for me to write about the whole events. I started a few times only to erase it. But the story would not be complete without some explanation of the rest of that day.
We went on with the meetings after lunch and other people shared what they had gone through. There were some strange inconsistencies that had me puzzled.... some gaps in information. Of course, these colored how they saw events and affected their reactions.
One thing bothered me during the stories. It was when one member who had a job to do said he was so tired one night that he took a sleeping pill, turned his computer off, and slept deeply for one night. I just sat and looked at him. Hmm.... there is perhaps the difference between a wife and a team member. It was my husband. It was another who I loved also. I understand that we have to take care of ourselves and be ready for the long term in a such a crisis... but.... I struggled with that thought of him soundly sleeping with a pill that makes you unable to wake up and respond. I had trusted him to be doing his job...
They complained that we worried them because the men said they would go to one place and then fly to another and they all waited and were worried when the men did not show up at the first place. But in their mailbox was an e-mail sent hours before with the news that they would not stop in the one place but go straight on to the next. I can't help it if they did not read their mail. And I was on a plane at that time, but if they were worried, all they had to do was phone the other wife who would have told them exactly what was going on. They didn't, so I didn't see how they could complain about being worried and blame us for that.
But the biggest problem in the afternoon came when we were soundly criticized for not coming straight home. We replied that the two men wanted time together since they had not seen each other much and needed to see each other and process some of what had happened, and they wanted their wives with them. All four of us needed to be together. This met immediate and angry responses that they (our team here) are our family and deserved to see us right away.
I really struggled with that reason. If they were our family and needed to see us right away, where were they during the crisis? Where were they when I was all alone? Why did I have to curl up on my kitchen floor late at night that first day trying to face the fear and panic with no one with me?
Why was I responsible in the immediate aftermath of comforting their fear and panic before I even had time to wrap my arms around my husband and cry?
We left that for the time being and went on into things that we can learn from this and changes that should be made. Then we discussed lessons learned – so when we encounter a situation like this again, we will know how to act. We discussed security, ways to behave, etc. Then we talked about communication and recovery after such events. At this point, I told them that it would be better to think about what people have gone through and give them some time in the beginning to be undisturbed and to rest and heal.
The effect was like lighting a match in a room filled with gas fumes. An explosion.
On one side, one member was telling us that we were so wrong not to take calls, no matter what the time because anyone serving in the forces would be required to do that before they spent time with family.
Yes, but the men already had had extensive discussions with people in charge. They had not left without the critical information being given.
On the other side, other team members were saying that we should have talked to them all right away because they hadn’t talked to us and didn’t we realize that they needed to talk to us right away because “we had only heard that he was out, but we hadn’t been able to ask him ourselves if he was injured or anything.”
True, you hadn’t, but the leadership had and should have been able to communicate that to you. And even if you had to be in suspense one more day about what, if any, injuries they had, was it more important than them and us who had not slept for five nights being able to curl up with each other and sleep? How about our worries for each other - "Are you really ok?" Wasn't it more important that we had time to ask and answer that to each other first - first, before answering that to others outside?
I do understand that they were frightened and worried by the events. But I wondered if they understood that we were, and that we needed some time, just some time to sit quietly and let the fact that we were together sink in.
The room grew very loud and very angry with most of it aimed at me. I was the one who said that in a future crisis, people need to give the people involved a little time to recover and sleep. Person after person got upset at me and told me reason after reason why they all needed to talk to my husband that first night and how upset they were with me for not letting them.
Finally, my husband stepped in and said, “What I expect you all to understand is that that night, I needed my wife. I needed to be with her, and I expected you all to understand that! And we needed to sleep.”
The room grew a little calmer after that, but the discussion kept going. There were the few on our team who, when they heard of how the first day went were horrified. "You mean you wanted to talk to them right then??!! What were you thinking?!" Others sat quietly not wanting to get involved in the discussion. Still others were angry and upset with us. What was strange is during the whole time, our team leader just sat quietly working on his computer totally ignoring most of the conversation going on around him. As if how we had felt and how we had hurt was totally unimportant to him.
All I wanted him to do was listen. To hear. To know what it meant. To learn, so that another time, this would not happen. Another time, someone going through it would be better protected, better cared for.
And he sat ignoring the whole conversation. Only at one point when the room got very loud with his wife and a few others quite upset at us, he raised his head, sighed, and asked his wife, "Would it help if I apologized for that phone call?"
I looked at him again stunned by his complete lack of seeing. Then told him, "No. It is not that we are angry or holding a grudge that we want an apology for. We have already forgiven you. It is that we are trying to learn how to do things better next time. All I want is for us to learn from our mistakes so we don't repeat this one again. So that next time, we take better care of our wounded. I just want to see us learn, and I don't see that there is any learning happening at all."
The conversation went on between others, and our team leader continued shuffling his papers and working on something else in the middle of the meeting. Then after five more minutes, he got up and walked out of the room.
He didn't even try to understand, but walked away from our pain.
So then the attacks turned nasty and personal. One woman there, the wife of the team leader told me that what the enemy could not do from outside, I am letting him do from the inside. I am destroying the team from inside by saying that I was hurt and by refusing to just forgive and let it go.
I told her that I have no problem forgiving, but that we need to learn lessons. So far I have only seen defense of what was done. The point is to learn how to do better, and the only point I am trying to make is that we need to consider the needs of the families involved in a crisis and work to protect their time to heal. If we don't learn that, what will happen next crisis? Are they going to do the same to that person, too? Because next crisis, you are going to find me camped out outside in order to protect and care for the people involved if that is what it takes!
At that point, I began to cry again, silent tears tracing a rapid path down my face. I was hurting, wanting to he heard, and now I was being accused of doing what the enemy could not do through the crisis - bring down the team... at that point, I gave up and quit.
But my husband stepped in. He told the, "You know what? That night, I needed my wife. That was all. I didn't need to talk to you all and I needed you to understand that." They didn't. They still don't. Then they said we are letting the devil in to cause trouble.
It still hurts. Welcome home. Welcome back, injured and limping, to be thrown to the sharks.
You know what we needed? We needed to be heard. We needed to be hugged. We needed to be prayed with. We needed support. We needed to hear other's stories - stories of how God worked, telling people to pray, encouraging others, working behind the scenes. We did not need to be thrown to the sharks. We did not need to be abandoned by our team leader to the frenzy of uninformed, stressed, and angry team members. It was a time for clear leadership, for setting ground rules of debriefing - people are allowed to say how they felt and not be attacked. It was not the time for one leader to walk out and leave the other poor one stunned by the shark frenzy and paralyzed.
Eventually, the country director pulled it together and stopped the tirades against us and suggested that we all saw things differently because we had different stories, and that why don't we just pray.
We did. All of us stood to pray. And after a few minutes, I walked out, again to a back room to dry my face and throw myself into the arms of the only One that I knew saw my heart right then.
I came back in before the prayers ended. Our team leader was leaving, so everyone was saying goodbye to everyone. Our team leader's wife came over to me and said this, "I know you probably don't want me to, but I am going to hug you" and proceeded to hug me goodbye.
I'm sorry. If you know someone doesn't want you to do something, don't do it.
Especially if you know that person has a past of abuse, you just don't force a hug, an unwanted hug after you have degraded and hurt them publicly.
But I stood there and let her hug me. What else could I do? And then went back to my husband's arms, to safety.
I left that day numb. Not even sure if I had any feelings left. Blank and staring. When we were hurting, we were attacked. Then we were accused of letting the devil use us to destroy. We went home and stared at the walls. We went to bed that night and just held each other and cried. Too ashamed even to think about asking for help. We had asked for help, we had stated that we were hurting, and we were met with anger. Where do we go for help if even our own attack us for feeling vulnerable and needy? For asking for time to heal? We did not sleep, but just lay in bed staring most of the night. Too hurt even to cry.
We felt shamed. Shamed publicly. Accused. Ashamed for being weak, for having needs, for putting our own needs above others. Just shamed. Abandoned and attacked by our own. Healing wounds in my own heart ripped open that night.... am I not valuable enough to be cared for? Not worth enough to be listened to? He just walked out... he just walked out not even caring. Accused again. Hurt again, and then judged harshly on my reactions under unbelievable hurt and stress. Left alone to deal with pain.
How would we go on from here?
That night, we lay awake and stared at the ceiling stunned. Wounded and bleeding and pretty sure at that point that there would be no healing. There sure wasn't going to be any trusting anyone with just how much we were struggling. Not if this was the reaction we would face.
We were ready to quit. To go home and quit.
And the next days did not get any easier...
And the next days did not get any easier...
Thursday, May 20, 2010
The Confusion of the Journey
He spent his next days listening to people. One had a lot of fears since he and his wife had walked through something else like this before with a friend of theirs. These two became worried about the smallest details and began to spread the fear throughout the others.
One working closely with him picked up on the fear, and carried it to new heights. He began to accuse us of unbelievable things... of outright lying, of making up the whole story, of hiding things from him... We watched this man totally puzzled. He is our brother, one we were very close to, one we love. And overnight, he changed.
There was nothing my husband could do, but day after day listen to one and then the other, trying to let them talk, let them say what was on their minds, to listen. Day after day, he would come home broken, hurt, and sit. Then he had to be a happy daddy to four little kids who needed him. As soon as we had the kids in bed, we would crawl in bed ourselves, and lay just curled up next to each other hardly talking, but drawing comfort from each other.
There was an intense sense of sadness along with all the confusion and hurt. Sadness because this was supposed to be such a happy time. God had done the impossible, and we should all be rejoicing together, thankful. Instead we lay here in shock after yet another day of hearing absurd accusations against us.
We responded woodenly to people outside the team. Our friends and our churches would phone so happy with the news, eager to talk to us... and what could we say? Do we admit how we really felt - shamed and confused and struggling? They wanted to rejoice - God had done a great thing!
We talked late into the night after the first days. Do we stay with this group? Do we leave? Is this the final straw? But our hearts are with this work. And we love our team... people who have been closer than family to us for years. What is going on here? We had thankfully already decided not to make any decisions right then, so we didn't, but we talked. Those are decisions that will have to be made at some point, but not right now.
The blessing that came through this time, the only blessing, was that we began to share more deeply with each other - not so much about the crisis itself, but about our feelings. We began to exercise and practice that new trust in each other, and we found that we could lean on each other - even when there was no one else there to lean on.
And we cried together. Cried at the pain of what was being accused. We took walks. We didn't answer the phone at night. We ignored people. We visited a few we knew that we could count on. But mostly, we ate, curled up and cried and talked with each other, and slept.
Night after night, my sleep was still interrupted by nightmare after nightmare. Dreams of all types woke me with my heart pounding, and again my husband would reach for me and wrap his arms around me tight. Only up against his warm skin would I slowly relax and go back to sleep.. to be woken again in an hour or so with another.
We're still confused by all that happened. And there is a sense of mourning. Our normal has gone. They are back safe, but there is no getting back to normal since normal has disappeared. We find ourselves in a strange new world with little familiar. Still with no map.
For awhile, we sat paralyzed in shock. There is a part of us that still is stunned even now, but we realize that we need to learn to act instead of reacting. It was just that even thinking took a lot of work and we had little energy in those first weeks. A few hours of work would exhaust us.
But there is a loneliness in our lives now. Who do we trust? Who can we lean on? Is there any safe place? Most of the story and our feelings about it all still lay buried - we're too busy trying to heal our team to deal with what the crisis did to us. We're too nervous to share how we feel with others. And time is passing... people expect us to be normal now. We look normal. We sound normal. They've forgotten what an impact that had on us. So we go on.
And there are times we just stop and stare blankly for awhile. Then we shake ourselves and go on again.
A few things came after these events, but very little. We did have a time we bumped into our country director at an event and had a few minutes to talk. We received a letter from him a few days after the team meetings. He praised us for how well we had done in the crisis and stated that he knew it was difficult, but we did well. The first praise from anyone within our team that was not immediately followed by criticism. These things meant something to us.
We had a wooden apology from one person - the fruit of another telling him he had to apologize. Later, the men met with him and came away with a slightly better result than the last meetings.
We took a week off. The team slowly readjusted to just one family accusing us and the others either quietly backing us or silent. We took a week off, risking criticism again, but just needing to pull ourselves out of the situation hoping it would calm down while we were gone. We enjoyed our week, rested, were with people we knew and loved...
but no one asked to hear our hearts.
I think that is why I started blogging this story. The chance to say what happened and how I felt. Because I never got that. All that met us was pain and confusion.
Only one person has asked to hear my heart, and that is only much later. And I find myself unable to talk about it. As if it is awkward.... too much time has passed... I don't know if I really can open those boxes of packed up pain. I have never cried the bucket of unshed tears. I've cried out the pain of those first meetings with our team... but not yet even cried from the pain of those days of the crisis. I've unpacked the boxes enough now to sort out the events and some of the feelings... but then I stop. Is anyone even listening? It's been too long now. I shouldn't cry - it's been too long. So I am silent. It has become a habit.
But just the other day, I looked at one of my friends in the parking lot late at night after a meeting and said, "I'm struggling. I'm trying to pretend I'm normal and go on, but sometimes I just zone out and stare. I have trouble focusing. I'm just still struggling still."
I don't know where I will go from there. I am still on this journey without a map. And we're still puzzled by where the journey has led.
Friday, May 21, 2010
The Good Things
We shared with our church where we live. That evening was a special one. We had been through it together. Several people from the school came too. Together we shared the story, and they listened. Here was the only place where we shared a little of how we were feeling - some of the thoughts going through our heads, our struggles, the things that lay beneath the surface of "this happened and then that".
My husband spoke first, then called me to tell my story, then was going to finish his story of the amazing ending and the fun thing that God allowed them to do right after being safe. But when I finished, our youngest son stood up. He wanted to go up on stage and share how he felt. Ok. So we let him.
He stood up behind the hastily adjusted mike and said, "When I first heard what had happened to my daddy, my heart broke into a gajillion pieces. And I went upstairs and was very worried. But after a little while, I remembered that God had promised to take care of us, so I remembered that God was with my daddy wherever he was, and He would take care of him. So I decided to not be afraid. Then when I heard he was out, I was so happy that I can not tell you how happy I was. But hen we missed him when he couldn't come home right away, and now he is home."
Later in the car, #3 explained to my daughter who had been in nursery during the service that he had spoken in the front. He said, "I probably talked for a few minutes. I could have probably had enough to say to talk for half an hour, but I only talked for two minutes!" We laughed. He likely could have, too!
We left my daughter in the nursery to help with the babies. There were some parts of the story that she just didn't need to hear yet. When she is older, we will let her listen to the recording of that day.
After my husband finished and we stood and gave thanks as a church for the safe return of these men, I stepped off the stage, and my oldest came over. He wrapped his arms around me, buried his face on my shoulder and cried. He had not yet cried with me, but that evening he did. He just let himself be held and cried. And my church graciously stood back and let him have his time with me, waiting until he was done and had walked away before they came with all they wanted to say and ask.
It was a good evening. An evening to finally tell some of the emotions behind this. But there are only so many of those feelings you can process in front of a group. It was also a chance to stand and publicly thank those who had been there for us - for the large things like taking over for an afternoon to the littler things like coming over with a quick hug and a plate of cookies.
We felt loved and cared for.
Then we left for our week break. We had asked permission and asked the leadership to step up and tell the team that we were going away. To explain it well so we would not face more criticism. They did a good job. Slowly, I think, they were learning. The week was wonderful, too. We did not get the chance to sit down with any one person and share our hearts, but we did get spoiled. We got chances to rest and to talk. It was a chance to allow all the turmoil at work to settle down without us there, and a chance to catch our breath after the unexpected reactions by our team. It was a chance to allow our kids to relax with us and play.
Friday, May 21, 2010
It Comes Down to Choices
On our way home, before we even got home, we got a phone call from the one couple who had been acting so difficult with us. The ones who had been so angry and accusatory of us. They were in a difficult situation and needed some assistance. We listened, and told them we'd phone back in a short time.
We drove towards our house with sleeping children in the back and discussed our reaction to this situation. It was really a difficulty of their own making. They had chosen not to ask advice and gone and done something, and now needed help in it. We talked about how they had hurt us and how easy it would be to shrug our shoulders and walk away. We talked about how they were still accusing us and would likely not stop that. But we talked about what we were called to do. We are to walk right. That does not depend on their behavior. Together, late that night in the car, we chose to go on showing love to them. To ignore all that had happened and go on serving them. We serve them and love them not because of who they are, not because of how they act, but because we are called to lead them and leadership is service.
So we phoned them back, and offered what we could do. Then early the next morning, our phone rang again. They had another problem and needed us to take over the whole task for them. My husband got up early, and drove a two day trip to help them with a family situation.
Two days later, when he returned, we phoned them to express our concern for their situation and see how things were. They were surprised and told us thank-you for stepping in. Our response was simple, "No problem. You are our brother and sister and we love you."
It is an uphill battle right now. We are committed to showing love and we are, but our hearts are hurt. We continue to act as we have always acted towards them - loving and serving... but we are aware of what they said about us and how they treated us when we were hurting. So we continue to love, but it is a love that has to be willing to accept hurt. In order to love, we have to chose to love. We have to chose to forgive. That means that there is no accounting for the wrong, no accounting for the hurt, but a quiet acceptance of its existence. We know they hurt us and don't see that, but we continue to give love, not for the sake of it being returned in the measure it is poured out, but for the sake of love. We love, because He loved us.
But peace came with that acceptance. Our job is not to change our coworkers. It is to love them. It is not to perfect them, but to accept them. They are also God's children, and there are things to respect and admire about them. There are things that are failings in them. Those we trust to God, and we continue to serve.
But there is a closeness missing. A joy in being together that is gone. We love, but trust and joy is missing.
And we still struggle with dealing with what happened to us. It is just that it had to take a back seat to dealing with other people's stress and problems. It means that our team becomes not a support to us in coping with what we went through, but a liability. Where ever the journey to normal will lead, we will have to walk that path alone.
And there is a sadness in that.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I Guess You Won't EVER Do That Again!
It hasn't been that there haven't been those who have reacted very well. There has. Our church here has done well. Our home church has done very well, too. I wish we could go there and see them. I wish initially we could have gone and walked in and been with them. They have done well.
Then there are others. Team members, family members, others. Each with their own reaction.
My grandma's was pretty clear:
We talked for a few minutes, and she expressed gratitude and relief that my husband is home safely. I agreed that it was wonderful because we had been worried he would never come home. Then she said, "I guess he learned not to do that again! At least not while you have kids still at home."
I didn't say anything. She is my grandma, and by default, older than me so I will show her respect, but I bit my tongue. Why not? I mean, of course not right now... if his "doing that again" will put others or a work in danger, then of course not... not now. But why not?
So he won't face danger?
Is that a good enough reason?
Because it is risky?
Do we quit because of that?
So my kids can grow up with a daddy to play catch with them?
I'm sorry if I sound harsh and uncaring here, but is that so important? I agree that it IS important... but is it the most important thing? If our comfort and the needs of our kids were the first things in our minds, we would be home... on a few acres with a few dogs and other odd pets and spending our weekends swimming, biking, and rafting. There is no way I would be raising my kids in a city in a place that is not home to me!
We went into missions because we were called, yes. But we were called into missions because there are a few things worth living for, yes, even worth dying for. There are people who do not know Christ. Telling people about Christ can be dangerous. In some countries it is more dangerous than others, but no one ever said it would be a walk in the park! We could retire now that we've been frightened and walk away, but why? Nothing has changed. There are still people who need to hear. Being frightened once is NOT a reason to quit. Staring death in the face is not a reason to quit.
We drove with our kids on one of our long cross country trips once. (You know, furlough... that lovely "vacation" you get to take every so often where you get to drag four kids across the country and sleep on people's floors and speak in meetings.) I think we have hit every state in the Union now except Hawaii and Alaska (hey, I'm open to going there!) and perhaps Maine. This time, we drove through Washington State and saw a sign for the Whitman Mission. I remembered reading way back in 6th grade the story of the Whitmans, but hadn't remembered that it was out in Washington! We stopped and walked with our kids through the remains of the mission burned to the ground by the Indians.
Now whatever one might say about the Whitmans - I am sure they, like all of us, made their share of mistakes - they did leave everything and go live out in the middle of nowhere with a real desire to see people hear about God. They lost their daughter to a tragic accident there. They struggled to get along with their fellow missionaries. They adopted seven children who made it across the Oregon Trail on their own after the death of their family (another story I had read in elementary school!). Ultimately, they were killed - shot and hacked to death by Indians who blamed them for the death of their children from measles. It was a gruesome and gory account of the massacre and the survival of a few women and several children who then spent a month as captives at the hands of those who murdered their families.
I stood there with my children and read the story to them. We stood on the hill where they are buried and looked out at the surrounding area. On the drive off the highway to the mission, we had passed at least ten churches. We had just come from speaking in a church where there were a high population of Native Americans. My family is a mix of immigrant and native American ourselves. ( I did laugh one time when an old man, a patient of mine, said in shock when he saw my mom, "Oh! I didn't know your mother was a half-breed!) I stood there with my children and told them to stand by the graves and look out over to the town in the distance and count the steeples of the churches.
We did not become Christians without cost. From the time of Acts through to the Reformation through to the settling of America and still to this day, sharing the truth has come at cost. It cost others that we might stand here today looking out at a town in a valley with several steeples rising from the churches in it. People suffered, endured, and died to bring the gospel to this land.
Then I told them that as history has been, so is the present. The gospel will only spread in the face of risk and great cost. Do not think it is strange if we endure suffering or are called to lay down our lives. Do not back down from fear. It will only be with a cost, but look out at the sight here. Look and remember. God will always build His church. He will build it and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Not even when the ultimate cost is paid.
So, in answer to my grandma, "yes, we will do that again!". When God leads us, we will do that again.
It is about having an eternal perspective. We are not living in the here and now for the here and now. We live here, in a point in time, but we are bigger than that. We are part of God's church... walking in the footsteps of those who have walked before us and here for a purpose - to glorify God by obedience to what He asks. One day, sooner or later, we will die, and then we will be alive forever, together with those who walked before us and those who walked after us.
It is not that I do not enjoy life or hold it dear. It is just that we are designed for the eternal. I don't want to hang on to this life with both hands and miss out on the greater. There is more than the here and now to be wrapped up in.
So, Grandma, yes, we will do that again! Not foolishly, not haphazardly, but we will continue to do what God calls us to even when it means facing danger.
Hey, you could walk across the street to the mailbox and be hit by a speeding car too! What guarantee do you have on a long, safe life over here?
But standing at the Whitman mission had a profound impact on me. I think it was the first time I actually realized that people had died in bringing the gospel to us - to us here in our "safe" America, too.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Here We Go Again...
So we work in a difficult area among people who do not exactly welcome us with open arms. As a result, there are times that things get difficult. Sometimes they are more difficult than other times.
Then there is the difficulty of how to ask for prayer at times without saying what is going on. When we can't say, how do we ask?
But it is time to be praying again. It is a different situation, but still needing prayer. Pray for God's hand in the situation, controlling, leading, and protecting. Pray for our country - there is a lot of tension right now under the surface. I feel worried, but also in another way, hopeful. God is working in a big way, things are happening. There will be opposition. It is to be expected.... but it also concerns us.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
We Pause for.....
We're busy. Our thoughts are elsewhere. We watch and we pray. Friends are going through a difficult time right now, and all we can do is watch and pray, so we want to do that well.
Someone used to tell me that in every difficulty is an opportunity. There is opportunity in this difficulty, possibly great opportunity, but it is coming at a great cost, too. My heart is heavy and I watch from afar and pray.
Funny that no matter how close you are to someone going through something, you are far away. The line between suffering it and standing beside one suffering is always a vast space. I think of Jesus praying in the garden in a time of great suffering, and His disciples not too far away fell asleep - tired of watching. The distance between being in and being nearby.
So we are watching and praying with heavy hearts for great opportunity to come out of a situation with great cost. Will you pray with us for our country "over there"?
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Pieces of the Puzzle
But it meant that I was working with my old crew, people who had been there over the last several years with me. One is a lady who hated me when I came, but grew to love me. We are good friends - now... years later. It was she who volunteered to work any overtime to take my shifts when we got back if I didn't feel able to yet. She is a widow whose husband died of cancer the year before I began to work there.
Today she saw me and asked how I was. I said I was good. Still later in the evening, she walked into a room alone with me and asked again, "How are you really doing? Are things good? How are things at home? Have you really recovered yet?"
And you know what? Today, I could answer her that I have. Yes, I'd doing ok. And she smiled and said, "Good. You look good, you know. You look like you are recovered now, not like when you first came back. You're looking like yourself again."
I smiled. I am. I'm feeling good. Normal. (yeah, would still like to get my house back to normal.....)
I think today while I was thinking about it, I figured out one more thing - one more piece of the puzzle, and figuring it out set my heart just that little more at peace. There was something I had wanted after this all, and because of what happened in the immediate aftermath, it was something I did not get. A small thing, but one I so very much wanted. As time went by, I began to question this one... why is it such a big deal? Why do you see it as such a loss? It didn't seem to fit - the weight of the feelings of loss much greater than the actual loss itself.... so I talked it out in my head... trying to explain to myself why I had wanted it... what I would have felt if I had got it... then I realized where it came from.
A loss from years ago. It was something I lost a long time ago. This loss at this time was a reflection of that... something that I long for because there is already an ache in me for this. That ache has nothing to do with the events that happened this year, but from long ago. So this thing I did not get became big... the weight of former pain behind it.
Now I understand it. It doesn't take it away, but it helps me to understand. I then can be honest with myself - about something I don't think I had ever put words to before. "I lost this... that day... and I miss it." "I thought I would ease that ache with that... but when I did not get a chance to have that, it hurt." The hurt then is down to size... it was a small thing really, but a small thing with a big ache behind it.
What to do with the big ache? Bring it to God. I've been here before, and I know this path. Bring it to Him, acknowledge it, lay it before Him, and sit back watching. I've never had Him fail to meet me in my pain. Never - even when I thought there was no answer for some hurts. He's had a way. So I bring it to Him.
"I haven't had this since.... and I miss it... Part of me aches because I needed this.... I still need it..."
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Back to the Story
You see, way back when my husband got out and was coming home, the day I left very good friends to meet him and then fly home together, a song began to play in my head. Over and over and over this song played for the next three weeks - through the pain, through the confusion... I could not stop it.
But I began to listen to it and began to pray. There are times that God quietly tells me something. This song both encouraged me and made my heart heavy.
It was the song, "God of this City" by Bluetree sung by Chris Tomlin:
You're the God of this City
You're the King of these people
You're the Lord of this nation
You're the Light in this darkness
You're the Hope to the hopeless
You're the Peace to the restless
There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God
For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater thing have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here
Why was my heart heavy? Because I have lived long enough to know that when God begins to do greater things, that there is often a greater counterattack, an increase in persecution, in difficulty, in troubles. The enemy does not give up ground without a fight.
So my heart was hopeful, but watchful. Wary. Praying. For weeks, while struggling through our recovery, I kept my eyes on God quietly watching. "What are You doing? What is going to come?" And praying... quiet, watchful prayer for our country.
Greater things are still to be done in this city. I watch and pray. And realize that greater things mean greater persecution, too. It has begun, and my heart is heavy for brothers and sisters in pain.
This was the reason for the silence. It was the silence of watchful prayer. Please be praying for those of our family all over the world who are enduring hardship as followers of Christ. Many of their stories will not be told until we are together rejoicing, but they need our prayers.
I know that now more than ever, having been given a glimpse of their road that I was not asked to walk.
But, I'd like to return to my story here, too. Because the end is always the best part, and we follow a God who brings good out of pain. Who comforts even what seems inconsolable.
And I'd like to tell His story.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Before and After
So to pick up and go on is a difficult thing. It reinforces the two lives that I lead - one here in the present where I currently live; the other a life aware of another place, another way of living. Two awarenesses running at all times - ever since I was small.
Yet in some way, it has also has me more aware that this life here is temporary, not the real, not what is of substance, not eternal.
So that makes me constantly aware of three places... part of me living where I am now, part of my heart living where I am not now, "over there", and part of my heart just plain longing for heaven when God wipes away all tears and puts all things right.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
The Lesson in the Sunset
Then, the sun, hung low in the afternoon sky, began to set. The sky turned orange, then streaked with a glorious display of purples, pinks, mauves, and oranges. It caught my eye as we drove.
Then I turned my eyes back to the brightly colored fields. It was then I noticed something. It was not dark enough yet for there to be only shadows, but the colors were gone. Muted. The beautiful colors of late spring completely eclipsed by the glory of a sunset.
A verse came to mind as I sat staring out at the scene.
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
Not worthy to be compared. That bright spring beauty which I admired was not worthy to be compared to what was going on in the heavens. No eye would remain in the things on the earth once they saw what was going on in the heavens. Whether is be suffering or delight, difficult times or wonderful - all are not worthy to be compared. A far greater glory that will be revealed.
A quiet reminder from the God who holds my heart and knows my pain to look up. Look up at what He is doing. These sufferings are not worthy to be compared to the glory of what He is doing.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Rejoice with Those who Rejoice?
I prayed. As a mother who lost my first daughter, I prayed.
She was born. And she lived! Today she is still living. She is struggling, yes, and we continue to pray, but these parents have held their daughter in their arms alive! I cried tears of joy for them yesterday. I wrote them and told them that I had prayed so much for them. I had prayed as one who had lost my first daughter, who knows the fear, and was so delighted to hear that their precious daughter survived.
Thee is in me a quiet knowledge that God doesn't always chose to do the miracle. So I don't know what I expected with her birth. Others wrote that they were so confident that she would live. I wasn't. I just knew that God was thoroughly in control. That He could save this little girl's life, or He could take her to be with Him. Whatever He chose to do, He would be with the parents in it.
It is not that I always expect the worst. Another friend of mine was expecting a baby, and I completely expected her to live, and she didn't. It hurts.
I just don't have a confident expectation that God will always do the miracle. When He does, it surprises me. He surprised me with this tiny girl's first breath.
Then I worried about that fact that I had even written to them that I had lost my daughter so I knew how special this was to them. I hoped that they didn't feel guilty. I hoped the question of "Why did our daughter live and not theirs?" never cross their mind.
Because as I heard of her birth and life, I was thoroughly, absolutely, completely delighted. Tears of joy ran down my cheeks.
Not once did my mind go to the question, "Why didn't God save my daughter?" Never. Didn't even think about it. Instead I thought, "I am so glad they don't have to walk that path!"
I faced that question of why the day my daughter died. Settled it with God. I looked up at Him and said, "I will not question Your decisions, but know that You are good, You know what is best, and You deeply love me." I have not wavered from that firm commitment since the day I made it.
Have I hurt? Oh, yes! Have I cried? Still do! Have I thrown myself and my pain against God? Ah... so many times! I've cried out to Him that I just wanted once, even just once, to hold her. I wanted to look into her eyes... I long for my baby girl, my first daughter.
But I never blamed Him. I never asked, "Why did You let her die?!" No. I chose to believe about God what I knew about Him - He is good. He knows what is best. And He loves me. He knows my hurt.
Those choices left no room for bitterness.
As I worried that these friends might feel guilty when they look at those of us who have an empty ache in our hearts for the babies that God did not do the miracle for, that quiet voice that I have learned to listen to spoke. "So why do you have a sense of guilt that I gave you your husband back when others lost theirs?"
Then another question. "How do you think they felt when they heard he was home safely?"
They probably felt like me when I heard this brand new baby took her first breath - absolutely delighted.
Then came peace.
It doesn't mean I don't grieve their loss. It just means that we grieve together and we rejoice together. I grieve with her. She rejoices with me. Together we look up to God and know He is completely in control and is good.
I wish my friends didn't have to face that pain. I do. My heart cries for them. My heart breaks as I look at the photos of my friend's kids and know that they live without their daddy. And her heart delights that my kids got their daddy back.
Today, I cried. Able to set down that feeling of guilt.
Today I understood and accepted her love of me during the crisis and her genuine joy with me hearing that my husband was coming home safe. It was a hard gift to receive from a young widow still grieving the death of her husband.
And as I write that statement, I realize that the other person who has been the most sympathetic with me during these months is also a widow. One who lost her husband way too early also.
Our pain... enabling us to better comfort. hmmm...
Friday, June 18, 2010
Yet some of the pain lingered as we went on. Able to deal with life, but at times shadows of pain flit across the sky - the wounding of the abandonment and attitudes of those in ministry with us during the crisis. The pain of all that had happened still there. Then we went into one church on this trip which had a sign language interpreter. I love watching signs, watching words translate to motions and seeing the meaning behind those motions.
For example, the sign for forgiveness is wiping off both palms, one after another - washed clean. I can not speak sign language, but there are some signs I have picked up and combined with my own that I use at times. There are times I pray quietly with my hands to God.
That particular morning, I sat in that church and watched the sign for "acceptable". It was something like reaching out and bringing close to oneself.
As I watched it, God brought a verse to my mind. "God's will is good, acceptable, and perfect."
Acceptable - able to be embraced and brought close. To be accepted, not rejected. Not to be horrified at what He places in our lives, not to heave at what He lays in front of us, not to be hated. To be brought close, embraced.
Yet Jesus struggled in the garden - struggling with this very concept, acceptance. So struggling to accept, to bring God's will close to us to a place with no defenses is not a sin. There comes a time in that struggle that no one can go with you - alone with God with friends nearby. How did Jesus feel when His disciples slept through His struggle time - as if they were unaware, uncaring?
But after struggle, God's will is able to be accepted, brought close to oneself, close to one's heart. Even suffering. Why?
I learned something. I learned it in the sudden heart-wrenching news that my daughter had died. I learned it through the slow years of marriage trouble and enduring the inaction and personal attacks in response to my pleas for help. I learned it again in this crisis which threatened to take my husband and again in the confusing and painful reaction to the crisis by our very own team members.
God's will is able to be accepted and brought close to our hearts because God steps in. He gives a quiet ability. I saw Him do it. In the sudden crisis, in the deep grief, in the long-lasting trouble - He's been able to give the quiet ability to walk through. He hides us in the quietness near His heart. He makes marvelous His goodness to us in a besieged city.
After I've been through these things, I've seen and can say that while there is pain - yes, real pain! Pain not to be belittled, pain that scars - yet I am left with an amazement of God. Of His lovingkindness which was marvelous to me during all these difficulties.
He can be trusted.
So, I've come out stronger, not because I am stronger, but because I am learning to trust; and as I learn, I find He can be trusted.
I've added a phrase to my title: "learning to trust". It's my memorial to these times - to proving that He is able to meet us where we thought we would not be able to walk. In the Middle of Nowhere - learning to trust. That is where I am and that is what I am doing.
In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge;
Let me never be ashamed;
In Your righteousness deliver me.
Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly;
Be to me a rock of strength,
A stronghold to save me.
For You are my rock and my fortress;
For Your name's sake You will lead me and guide me.
You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me,
For You are my strength.
Into Your hand I commit my spirit;
You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth.
I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness,
Because You have seen my affliction;
You have known the troubles of my soul,
And You have not given me over into the hand of the enemy;
You have set my feet in a large place.
But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD,
I say, "You are my God."
My times are in Your hand;
Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.
Make Your face to shine upon Your servant;
Save me in your lovingkindness.
Let me not be put to shame, O LORD, for I call upon You.
How great is Your goodness,
Which You have stored up for those who fear You,
Which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You,
Before the sons of men!
You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man;
You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.
Blessed be the LORD,
For He has made marvelous His lovingkindness to me in a besieged city.
As for me, I said in my alarm,
"I am cut off from before Your eyes";
Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications
When I cried to You.
O love the LORD, all you His godly ones!
The LORD reserves the faithful
And fully recompenses the proud doer.
Be strong and let your heart take courage,
All you who hope in the LORD.
Ps 31 (condensed)
Monday, June 28, 2010
I think because it is from so long ago, I will just copy what I wrote in my journal that day:
God is talking to me about tempered steel - not exactly sure what it is about tempered steel. Perhaps I need to look it up and study what goes into tempering steel. So far, I have learned that steel is tempered by reheating it over and over until it changes its very form, making it stronger and able to withstand changes and loads.
I feel like that is what Gos is doing with me - over and over again putting me through the fire. I don't really like it. But then I see myself respond in ways that are not best showing who God is and I am disappointed in myself. Slowly, slowly, God is working on me through these times, slowly changing me.
Like tempered steel becoming stronger.
Only I am afraid of fire and greatly dislike pain. When I think about me, I don't like the tempering process, but when I think about God and His purposes - so greater than mine - I realize that in order for Him to use me, I need to be strengthened and changed.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
God's Epilogue - The Introduction
But in order to tell you about God's epilogue, I need to back up a little bit to the events from the "Here We Go Again" post until the weekend that I sat in that meeting.
A coworker had ended up in trouble. Similar in nature to my husband, his life was at risk. We heard, and we immediately came over to be with his wife. We phoned the prayer chain teams still in practice after my husband's crisis, and then we gathered our kids and headed to her house. We were the first to arrive. We hugged her, made tea, and tried to talk carefully - aware that there were many small children with us. Hers were watching their mother to see if they should copy fear or faith and ours who had just recently been through it themselves. After a short while, the kids all headed to an outdoor covered area to play cards. Then we sat down with her and listened to the story - what we knew at that point.
It was then that another couple arrived. We stayed about an hour and then my husband was speaking in church that evening, so we had to go. We left our two oldest because the distraction was good for their kids. First we quietly called our kids to us and told them the situation. They were to be there to help their friends and their auntie by playing, but not being demanding. They understood. Their eyes widened, their laughter quieted; then they took a deep breath and agreed. I trusted them to be helpers, and we left with her toddler and our youngest ones.
Quickly before church started, my husband briefed the church and asked for prayer. Then the service began. At the end, we left immediately and picked up some food on our way back to her house. To our surprise, she was alone again. The other team members had left, she said, right after we did. She had been left alone again.
We ate together, and gathered our kids. I told her I had to go home to quickly get my kid's outfits laid out since they had a dress up day at school, and then I would be back. I also wanted to get my computer and headphones so I would be ready to go to work on his behalf if it was needed.
I returned just as fast as I could, and sat with her through the night. Together, we watched for news. Together we sat as her husband phoned to say goodbye before he left a place he was to attempt to get to where he could leave where he was. Together we sat and watched the clock. About 1 AM, we received one call. We should have received another in about an hour, but no call came. We didn't know if that meant trouble or only phone trouble - the phone had not been working well.
Around 2 AM, she went to bed. I lay on a blanket on the floor with my computer with me - still watching. My husband skyped me and we both lay beside our computers waiting for a message, a call, any word. Either he had made it safely to his flight at this point and we wouldn't be hearing anything for several hours or he hadn't made it safely through and we wouldn't hear for.....?
So we waited.
Twice in the night, my friend stirred, and I crept up to her room to see if she needed someone with her, but she slept on. I lay quietly. Finally, around 4 AM, I dozed fitfully for two hours, waking often to check for news.
By six, we were up to silence. No word yet. Together we drank tea and waited. We got the kids ready for school and waited. The call should have come hours ago if he had made it safely out, but there was only crackling tension and more silence. An hour later, a skype message came through third hand that he was safe but that his phone was not working. The tension broke, and we hugged each other, cried, and thanked God.
Still, his wife needed to talk to him - to hear his voice.. So I took her kids to school. When I returned, she was finally on that long awaited call! I called out a hello to him and let them talk. Then I spent the day helping her with something I had already promised beforehand.
That afternoon, we met as a team again and I watched as people made plans for his first day and as his wife feebly protested that he might be tired and need one day alone to rest. I am much more vocal when defending others as I am at defending myself, so I backed her up and forcibly said that people could wait one day. He was arriving in the late afternoon, and people could wait until the next morning!
On the way home, I told his wife that in the next few days, her job was to care for her husband. That was her priority and she shouldn't feel bad to tell people no - and we would back her up.
Later, I learned she had done that, and I was proud of her! The very person who incessantly called us initially, she firmly told that her husband was in the shower and unavailable that night. He waited until morning to call them back. Atta girl!
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
God's Epilogue - The Result of Choices
So there I was, sitting in a meeting, a gathering of more than just our team, and it was a time of brief sharing. When it was this man's turn, he got a little more time because of what had just happened. He briefly shared the events of the last days. Then he stopped, looked around, and his voice grew gentle. Then he said, -
"When I was over there, and phoned my wife to talk before I tried to go from here to there, she told me that Ellie was with her. I felt so comforted and loved that my wife was not alone. She didn't have to wait alone to find out if I would be safe or not."
Then he paused, and his voice broke before he continued:
" I have to confess something. When Ellie's husband was in trouble, we thought alot, but did not act, and we never went to see Ellie. That was not right. But she was there for my wife the whole day and the whole night so she had comfort. She knew what my wife needed and was there for her."
Tears began to roll down his cheeks and he looked over at me and said, "I'm so sorry we didn't come to be with you. We should have. We were wrong."
Aww... nothing more needed to be said. These are my friends, closer than my siblings. And he suddenly saw...
God's Epilogue. His perfect way of solving the problem. All He asked of us was the simple (didn't say easy!) choice to continue to love, and He had His solution. So, with that, the pain from the rift was gone. Forgiveness is easy when the choice to love has been made since love leaves no room for bitterness.
Still waiting for God's epilogue in regards to the team leader, but he is one I only have to deal with once or twice a year, and one with whom we have never been close. So there is little pain of a friendship ruined because there never was a friendship. Also, the knowledge that we are not the only ones who have struggled with interpersonal issues with this man. There are some people who you just step away from and develop a thicker skin knowing that they may simply lack some interpersonal skills that are common to others. Just as we can not expect a crippled man to run a marathon, so we can not expect some people to use the sensitivity and awareness of others that they do not possess. Then it becomes something we can take less personally and simply realize that not all people are skilled in compassion and care. His actions and reactions do not reflect on who I am, but only on who he is.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Things That Make Me Cry
But then there are things that can make me cry.
I was cleaning out my second son's room last week to prepare for our guest. My second son, like all my sons, is bit of a hoarder. Now what he collects is very different than the others, but he collects things. He loves anything with nature and any written word - must be the Chinese in him.... they had a reverence for written words. (No, he is not really Chinese! But we are connected distantly to China.... see the Laws of Connectedness!) My other son collects any electronic item or piece of item. The other - well, he is just messy!
While I was cleaning out his drawers and sorting through what written things could be discarded and what should be saved, I came across four carefully cut out hearts. They were cut out and then very thin layers of hearts were mostly, but not completely cut out in strips so that it could spread out in a 3-D shape. Very delicate and having taken a lot of effort to do.
I pulled them out and looked at them to see who had made such detailed things and why. Then I saw my son's neatest writing on the top of each heart and my heart caught in my throat. You see, I had encouraged my kids to occupy themselves when my husband was "over there" and we knew he was missing by writing or making something special for daddy.... in case he came home or in case we were able to send something.... or in case... I hoped it would keep them busy and help them express their feelings. These delicate hearts had been made then.
I read the first one and it said, "I love you Daddy." The second one said, "Please come home soon." The third said, "I hope you are safe." But it was at the fourth one that the tears came. It said simply, "We will all miss you, Daddy."
Even though we are daily thankful to be together as a family again, there are these little reminders of what we went through - what we all went through. I realize again and again that my children were touched by this, that they still deal with it, that I need to remain sensitive to their needs. We left my daughter with people for the first time this week and went away. She was excessively clingy to the point we almost rethought our plan. She was never that way before, but now the thought of her mommy and daddy leaving reduced her to worried sobs. I assured her that we would be only a few hours away and could talk to her, that she was safe and so were we. She only sobbed on my shoulder and said, "I KNOW all that, but I am afraid anyway." In the end, we did leave her, but only after she decided she would stay. I phoned her, and she was all giggles and having fun. But I haven't asked how she is doing at night. I pray she is coping. I pray God will comfort her heart and take away her unnamed fear. I'm thankful she will express it to me, even expressing that she understands there is no reason for it, but is aware it is there.
Each of my kids has responded differently presenting me with different challenges as a mother. I can not treat them all the same, but have to be sensitive to their own individual needs in recovery. But, all in all, they are doing well, and I am proud of them.
Friday, July 9, 2010
Irrational and Clingy
I started today fairly happy, at peace. But as evening began, I became unrestful. I walked away to find a quiet place to cry. The evening only got worse from there, and I could not figure out what was going on. I know that tomorrow we will be saying goodbye to people special to us, but it is something I have done before with less struggle than I am feeling today. I feel an unrational clingyness. Unable to face tomorrow well.
Then I remembered my daughter's behavior and her attempts to explain it to me - her sobbing long into the night, through her sobs telling me that she knows it is ok, but that she can't help it and "I just want you to stay with me. I don't want you to leave." I know how she feels today. It is unrational. It is not my normal. But I am not coping well with tomorrow's goodbye. Tears fill my eyes and I wish I was young enough just to sit down and sob.
I'm not. But my husband found me and wrapped his arms around me and held me. He laughed softly when I told him what was wrong and just held me. It's ok that he knows that I don't want to say goodbye to friends. That I am irrationally clingy. He will be there tomorrow with me after we smile and say goodbye. He will hold me when I cry. He will take the kids and keep them busy or keep them quiet and give me the peace I need to process my feelings. And tonight he will hold me and know that my heart hurts.
While I cry tonight so that I won't cry tomorrow, I am also thankful. Thankful for my husband's arms, for his understanding, for his gentleness with me. Thankful for his complete trust in me, that he knows my heart open in front of him, and trusts me - even when I am in tears about saying goodbye to people special to me.
Also compounding my night (I should have known better!), we watched a movie tonight that brought back flashbacks. Tonight I'm struggling. I feel silent in the middle of a crowd. Needing to walk and talk. Needing to sit by a stream and throw in sticks without speaking. The feeling will pass. I know it will. I've been through these cycles a few times now and am learning to be gentle with myself, to stay calm and ride out the feelings, and to pull away and take things easy for a time - a few hours, a few days... I've learned to talk when I need to, to not talk when I need to.
I'll be ok. I know I will. My daughter was fine after we left. She just needed her night where she cried out her insecurity and her fear of saying goodbye again. I'll be fine, too. It is just these things sometimes still surprise me - my new normal. It's not the same normal I used to have.